Erskine Seminary Professor Writes He Does Not Believe In Satan and Demons

 
Download This Issue of ARPTalk (#31) in PDF Format

Download This Issue of ARPTalk in PDF Format

Can’t they get the Bible right at Erskine Seminary?

Sadly, it is now well known in most of the conservative Reformed theological world that Dr. Hughes Oliphant Old, holder of the John Leith Chair and the Director of the Institute of Reformed Worship at Erskine Theological Seminary, has, in his most recent book, The Reading and Preaching of the Scriptures in the Worship of the Christian Church, vol. 7: Our Own Time, written that he does not “believe in Satan, demonic spirits, and demon possession.” The excerpt below is from page 556.

As I have mentioned, these sermons on Matthew 8 and 9 have a particular interest for me because I once tried to preach through these chapters and was very unhappy with how I did it. Where [John] MacArthur succeeded and I did not may well be in his complete clarity on just how he stood on some of the issues. While I would insist that Jesus did perform miracles, I have to admit that the caveats of the Enlightenment still obscure my thoughts from time to time. I suppose I am troubled by a shadow of doubt, but then the same would be true of many in my congregation.

The place where I have always had the greatest trouble is the whole matter of exorcism. I really do not believe in Satan, demonic spirits, and demon possession. Maybe I ought to, but I don’t. I am willing to agree that I may have been too strongly influenced by the intellectual world in which I was brought up to fully grasp the full teaching of Scripture, but that is the way it is. What is more than clear to me after listening to these sermons is that those who can take the text the way it is seem to make a lot more sense of it than those who are always trying to second guess it. Surely one of the great strengths of MacArthur’s preaching ministry is his complete confidence in the text.

Dr. Old has written over 5000 pages on worship and preaching and the Editor wishes that Dr. Old had never written the two paragraphs above on page 556 of his most recent book. The Editor was a student in one of the first classes that Dr. Old taught at Erskine. The class was a joy. Dr. Old was a delight. The Editor is greatly saddened by this admission.

Dr. Old’s words are so wistful. It seems that he regrets he cannot believe in the full authority of Scripture. He recognizes that such confidence in the reliability and authority of God’s Word authenticates the powerful preaching of John MacArthur. The Editor asks: “Oh Scotty, why did you make that gratuitous admission?”

Is there something in the Due West water? Dr. Old now joins Dr. Richard Burnett and Dr. Michael Bush in a list of professors at ETS who could not be ordained or received by any presbytery of the ARP Church because of their defective view on the authority and reliability of the Biblical text.

As recently as the March meeting of General Synod, Dr. H. Neely Gaston, Executive Vice President of ETS, was insisting that all the professors at ETS affirmed the inerrancy and/or full authority of the Bible. It has even been stated that the present ETS faculty is the most conservative and unified faculty that ETS has had in years.

In the light of the above events, Dr. Gaston’s words ring hollow. In the words of Desi Arnaz to Lucy: “You got some ‘splainin’ to do.”

These are my thoughts,

Charles W. Wilson

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  1. Claire Muzal says:

    Hmmm, I actually thought they were honest, humble words by Dr. Old. He states that “those who can take the text the way it is seem to make a lot more sense of it than those who are always trying to second guess it.” That he is having trouble believing in certain points of “Angelology” and admits his struggle, AND ADMITS that it results in making his exegesis fuzzy — well, I gotta respect that. Without further “proof” that this venerable teacher is dissing the Bible, I gotta think these 2 paragraphs may not really be much of a battle ground.

     
  2. Glen Clary says:

    Dr. Old has recently posted a remark about that statement at the following site http://teampyro.blogspot.com/2010/04/preaching-of-john-macarthur.html.
    I think if Mr. Wilson had simply contacted him re: the statement, he might have been able to get an explanation from the one who wrote it.

     
    • Unless I missed it, I’m not catching what you’re throwing there, Glen… Dr Old’s explanation, though honest, reiterates his lack of belief in the Bible. Sadly, (I hate to say, lamely)he rests on the excuse “that we will not fully understand all that is said in Scripture until the day when the Lord comes again.” Um, well, yeah, BUT what is plain, in Scripture however is plain: Jesus was tempted by Satan; Jesus cured a demon-possessed man, and a girl was exorcised by the work of the apostles.

      If Satan and his minions do not exist, and possession is not possible, indeed, he admits, trying to exegete Scripture is a difficult task; especially when one attempts to interpret Scripture with Scripture, which the author claims to have a high regard for in reviewing John MacArthur’s teaching style.

      What does Dr. Old gain by denying the existence of the forces of darkness? What rulers, powers, and authorities do we battle with every day?

      If Old can believe that “Yes, Jesus loves him, because the Bible tells him so”, why can’t he believe the things that yes, the things Jesus tells us, is so.

      I’m curious when people pick and choose what to believe. In this case, what if Old were wrong in his selective abilities, and yes, Satan exists, and no, Jesus does not love him? The Scripturally selective feel-gooders of this age have no basis to select which verses are true and which are false except for their own feelings… and we know how fickle feelings are…

      -Anthony

       
  3. Janis Cunningham says:

    Rev. Wilson, I would kindly recommend that you add quotation marks around Dr. Olds’ statement. As I read through the first time, I thought YOU were saying you didn’t believe in Satan or demons and I almost fell off my chair!

    Anthony expresses my feelings on this very well. I read the comments on the Pyromaniacs site and did not see a retraction of this statement.

     
  4. Heath Milford says:

    God’s Word says: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires.”(James 1:19-20)

    We easily misinterpret each other when there is no open dialogue. We should strive to be charitable to one another and truly desire to present our fellow brothers in Christ in the best possible light. If we are slow to speak then we will not immediately jump up to proclaim our own conclusions, no matter how obvious we think they may be. If we are quick to hear then we will actually seek out our brother and have him expound on his comments before we announce that the matter is settled. From my own personal experiences and failures I have found that anything less than this comes from my own selfish and sinful nature. May this not be so with us brothers. Please heed the wise advice of Rev. Glen Clary.

     
  5. Lon Crotts says:

    “If you don’t believe in Satan, then what else don’t you believe.” Once again, another “Christian-aisle saga at the grocery store”. Folks go down the aisle throwing items in the cart they like, and the ones they don’t are left on the shelf. It’s useless to reference innumerable scriptures about false teachers but it fully warns about those who don’t believe but find it financially rewarding to teach and/or preach. Those who defend this philosophical grocery-store religion are like those who found comfort in the midst of soothsayers. People who develop their perceptions of Christianity using the grocery-aisle method should not be teaching those for whom belief came through grace.

     
  6. Jay West says:

    Getting bored Chuck? When will all of this come to an end? And yes, I believe in evil, thanks to you!

    You have condemned us all!

     
  7. Glen Clary says:

    Mr. Wilson, et al., It is no secret that Dr. Old has become more and more conservative over the years. This is something for which we should praise God. Reformation is not something that happens overnight.
    I’ve been studying with Dr. Old now for more than two years, and I’ve never met a man more full of faith and of the Holy Spirit. Maybe his views concerning these matters are more in line with Scripture now than when he wrote that statement (which was more than 10 years ago, despite the publishing date). I urge you to contact him about this. For the sake of Christian charity, why don’t you ask him to speak for himself?

     
  8. Craig Mutton says:

    Just a note of correction. Neither Jesus nor His apostles ever performed an exorcism. They did not exorcise demons; they cast them out.

    The only mention of exorcism in the New Testament appears in Acts 19 where the seven sons of Sceva tried to bind some demons under the name of Jesus as a magical incantation. The Greek word exorkizo means “to bind under an oath”.

    Neither Jesus nor the apostles needed or used any amulet or enchantment to confront demonic powers. Jesus had the authority to cast them out (Greek, ekballo). He conferred that authority on His apostles.

    As to Dr. Old’s manifest rejection of the plain teaching of Scripture, one must ask WWJKD?

    (What would John Knox do?)

     
  9. Bruce Danejur says:

    Yea that statement seems very direct, but for a guy that is involved in Church work I would clarify with Dr. Old before quoting him with that statement, JUST IN CASE. It does seem very direct and to the point I agree as well as shocking. But I would make sure. That would throw me off too, but I would make sure that is exactly what he met before jumping the gun.

    In the words of Lucille Bluth, “It never hurts to double check”

     
  10. Cullen Phillips says:

    If you don’t believe in Satan or demonic spirits, then maybe you shouldn’t be teaching those who do. If you don’t believe in the inerrancy of the bible, then maybe you shouldn’t be teaching those who do. If we as ARP’s cannot rely on our own college to teach the truth, where do we send our children and ministers? Satan has infitrated EC and ETS and done a good job of it. If not taken back under control, EC and ETS will soon begin producing ministers of doubt.