Jan 20, 2011 | Comments 20
Some Erskine Alums Speak Out on Their Facebook Site on President David Norman and Other Issues at Erskine College
In the wacky world of Erskine College and Seminary, life at the end of 2010 and the beginning of 2011 is very interesting. As the year 2010 ended, the drumbeat on the Facebook (FB) site of the so-called loyal Erskine alums was for President David Norman to share with them his vision for Erskine. The article below was posted by the moderator of the FB site on December 20, 2010. The article is taken from the January issue of The ARP Magazine, and it is the first of three articles by Dr. Norman in which he presents his vision for Erskine College and Seminary.
Articles, FB postings, and e-mails in this issue of ARPTalk are reproduced as the Editor received them. Formatting liberties have been taken to make the materials fit the page. Dates reflect when the Editor received postings or e-mails. The dates are also the Editor’s method of organizing materials. The Editor has over 60 pages of postings and e-mails. “MC” is “Moderator’s Committee” and “TOS” is “The Other Side.”
Faithfully living out the truth of Scripture
The Erskine academic community exhibits considerable diversity. We delight in this diversity, which encourages clear communication and robust scholarly inquiry. We also embrace our identity as an institution of the ARP Church, which brings with it a rich heritage of theological wisdom.
In 2008, Erskine’s board of trustees adopted the policy that all new faculty and any staff or administrators hired at the director level and above must be “evangelical Christians.” In this policy, a definition of an evangelical Christian was also provided. That policy and the relevant definition were adopted in their entirety from a recommendation made by the ARP Synod.
I fully embrace this policy and intend to ensure that it is consistently implemented. I also recognize, however, that one particular portion of that definition has produced a great deal of confusion, disagreement, and in some cases even fear.
While the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, well articulated and applied evangelical theology should lead us toward joy, not fear. After all, our fundamental commitment to the good news of Jesus Christ – not any pharisaical or oppressive fear mongering – is the reason the word “evangelical” properly describes ARP theology.
The particular part of Erskine’s definition of “evangelical Christian” that causes concern for many is the way in which our commitment to the absolute authority of Scripture is articulated. We say that evangelical Christians affirm that the Scriptures are “infallible in all that they teach and inerrant in their original manuscripts.”
This language which carefully employs and faithfully parses language that is hotly debated by some biblical scholars, can also be somewhat unclear to readers who are only generally familiar with the concepts. For this reason, it is helpful to further explore how Inerrancy applies in the context of Erskine.
I would like to emphasize that all of us who affirm Inerrancy rejoice that God has spoken to us with remarkable clarity. Further, His word has been transmitted and translated so faithfully that we can rest in the assurance that what we read in our Bible is true.
Although some minor errors in translation and transmission may occur from time to time, most of us are less concerned with the finer points of textual criticism and more focused on the enormously enriching challenge of faithfully living out the truth of Scripture.
My goal in the first of this three-part series has been to frame the discussion of inerrancy conceptually. In part two, I will frame this discussion personally, with special emphasis on the pedagogical value of a widely held, clearly articulated, high view of Scripture within a Christian liberal arts institution. Part three will be an examination of the reasons for the benefits of understanding the Bible’s historical, sociological, and personal veracity.
My hope is that this series will better equip ARP readers to give –with gentleness and respect –a clearer defense for the hope that we share (1 Peter 3:15). Additionally, I hope that this discussion will pave the way for more evangelicals from other denominational backgrounds to understand and wholeheartedly embrace Erskine’s official articulation of our shared belief.”
The response of the FB alums was to ask for further explanations from Dr. Norman. The posting below from Dr. Norman reflects his thinking on the creation v. evolution debate.
Then there were further requests for more clarification. Dr. Norman responded with this posting:
Here is a link to another helpful discussion of inerrancy for those who may be interested. Of particular interest might be the “five things inerrancy is not”. http://www.reformation21.org/articles/a-laymans-historical-guide-to-the-inerrancy-debate.php
On January 3, 2011, Dr. Norman sent out an e-mail to the Board of Trustees (BOT) and others. A copy is posted below.
Subject: Happy New Year
Dear Erskine Board,
It is nice to have 2010 behind us! We are not out of the woods yet, but from where I sit, I must say that for 2011 and beyond, things look very good.
Before I say a few things about the future, I want to take a second to thank God for all He has done for us over the past 6 months.
Think of where things stood last May. It will be interesting to see what the Erskine historians have to say about the months of March-May 2010. We don’t need to think about everything too much right now, but I hope we can all give glory to God. It is not easy to do, but I know we should consider it pure joy when we face the kind of craziness that threatens to shake our faith. After all, we know that the testing of our faith develops perseverance, and perseverance has to work its way into our lives if we are ever to be truly mature and complete. (cf. James 1)
I will never forget my first cabinet meeting. I will never forget asking some simple question about the Fall and getting blank stares. It took about 30 seconds to figure out that not only had no one planned for anything past June 30, there wasn’t even an institutional calendar in place other than the planner on Judy’s desk! To say that the administration was exhausted to the point of disillusionment would be an understatement.
We have had some bumps, slips, and wake-up calls along the way, but I am very pleased to tell you that the outlook for 2011 looks stronger than I think anyone could have rationally hoped for 6 months ago.
Our admissions office, under then new leadership of Cory Young, has seen record numbers of prospective student visits every month this fall. As of the end of the calendar year, we had 117 more inquiries (530) than we did at the same time last year. It is still very early, but we already have 18 deposits. We had 10 at this point last year. We had 17 the year before– the year we had a freshman class of 207.
Of course, when things get uncertain, the main thing that suffers is income from charitable donations. No one wants to give to anything they are unsure of. Besides that, we have been without a VP for Advancement for a year. So here are a few hard facts we all need to face:
- All of our fair-weather friends are gone.
- It will take several years to persuade new donors to enter the mix.
- The development and alumni staff, whether they will admit it or not, are struggling with burnout.
- (and here is the really surprising one) Our income from charitable donations is within 10 percentage points of where it was last year.
So what can we conclude from all of this?
- God is good.
- Erskine friends just aren’t really the fair-weather type.
- The development and alumni staff are getting it done despite being exhausted and under-staffed.
- The future looks much brighter than the present.
This morning I was particularly encouraged by our seminary faculty meeting. It was scheduled to be very short, because there was very little business on the agenda. But then an amazing thing happened. A few Socratic questions about the vision of the seminary were raised. What ensued was more than an hour of passionate but VERY civil dialogue concerning the relationship between the seminary mission statement and the institution-wide mission statement, the importance of diversity, trust, trustworthiness, credibility . . . on down the line. I had to leave at noon for a funeral, but I understand that the discussion continued well after I left the room. And the really encouraging thing about all of this is the contrast between the feeling in the room today and the feeling in the room for the last few seminary faculty meetings. Sure there are still some very important disagreements that need to be worked out, but the spirit of trust and collegiality is returning to Due West!
But, like I said before, it is important that we all remember that we are not out of the woods yet. We have a very significant faculty grievance case in the college that has been on the verge of major crisis every day for the past several months. Our report to SACS is due next week. We have yet to find the right VP for Advancement. Rumors and conspiracy theories continue to abound on the internet, adversely affecting already strained staff morale, and, even if it comes in the form of a very large, unexpected gift, something radical will have to happen for us to achieve our 5th straight year of a balanced budget.
But God is good.
Many of you know that just before the break, I received two resignation letters. Both involved burnout, and both were at least aggravated by internet-published untruth. In the case of Wes, we were able to come to an agreement, and I am glad to say he will be staying on– at least for the time being. In the case of Jimmy, he had already accepted another offer before I found out there was a real problem. I am very pleased to announce, however, that Greg was able to work throughout the holiday and find what we all hope will be a very solid new comptroller. Christian Habeger, an Evangelical, Magna Cum Laude, Furman graduate with higher ed accounting experience and who passed his CPA exam on the first try signed a letter of appointment today and will start work for Erskine in two weeks.
Indeed, God is good.
Erskine needs your prayers and support now as much as it ever has. Please know that we are doing all that we can here in Due West to faithfully enact the policy you set for us. Significant challenges continue to greet us, but I am more in love with Erskine today than I have ever been before; and I hope that you are too. Not only is God good, but he has used this institution for the better part of two centuries and he is giving us every indication that he plans to continue using it for many, many years to come.
Happy New Year. And thanks for letting me play a part in Erskine’s rich history.
An analysis of Dr. Norman’s e-mail is posted on The Aquila Report.
Some Observations By the Editor
- The Editor gathered over 60 pages of materials in less than a month. This debate/conversation on the site of the FB Erskine alums has been intense but small in number of participants. In a post about a year ago, it was noted that there are 1500 subscribers on this site. Only about 20 people have participated in the debate. Dr. Bill Crenshaw, Ms. Janis Cunningham, and Ms. Mary Lou Holmes have written the most words. Well, what does this mean? Is this simply a tempest in a teapot?
- What is glaringly obvious is the lack of knowledge and understanding of evangelical Christianity on the part of these Erskine alums. They have no idea of what an evangelical is or what a Christian college is. Nor do they want to know! Ms. Janis Cunningham is a blessed exception in the debate. She is an evangelical. However, she is dismissed by the disgruntled alums as a fundamentalist. For a firsthand view of this debate so that you can come to your own decision, the Editor will be happy to send his file to you if you e-mail him and request it.
- It is also obvious that a historic form of Christian orthodoxy that is rooted in an experience of conversion to Christ, that affirms a Christian system of belief, that expects theological distinctives, that looks to the Bible as God’s Word written, that expects some form of a disciplined life, and honors the ARP Church as a part of the house of God is anathema to these people. The resolution of this controversy is going to be contentious because two forms of faith are in conflict. Whether we want to admit it or not, two competing forms of faith are in conflict. We cannot even discuss issues because we do not mean the same things by the words that we use. An example of this is the word “love.” The Erskine alums are using the word “love” as a synonym for almost universal acceptance and toleration for lifestyle and belief systems, nonjudgmentalism, and parity of ideas with a fixation with niceness. That is not how an evangelical Christian uses the word “love.” J. Gresham Machen was correct when he wrote that orthodox Christianity and liberal Christianity are different religious systems. These cannot be squared.
- If you read only one of these posts, read the last one by Dr. David Danehower. What Dr. Danehower writes is shocking.
Some Fascinating Responses By the Erskine Alums
Ms. Mary Lou Holmes posted on 12/21/10 that inerrancy was “fundamentalism,” “bigotry,” and “discrimination.” One wonders whether Ms. Holmes threatening another civil lawsuit.
Mary Lou Holmes
”Understanding the Bible’s ABSOLUTE AUTHORITY.” That sounds suspiciously like “take my human interpretation as the Word of God.” It is elevating the scripture over God, Christ and the Holy Ghost as well as the Christian conscience and reason. Where the doctrines of man differ from God’s law, then we are free to reject them. See Westminster Confession. Exactly where in the Bible or in creeds or historic authority does this “ABSOLUTE AUTHORITY” language come from? It has nothing to do with evangelical. Evangelicals spread the word of the Gospel.
Mary Lou Holmes
In this time of love, peace and understanding, it would be helpful if the inerrantists took some time to try to understand their neighbors. “Love” can only happen if you communicate and try to walk in another person’s shoes. This is what Jesus told us to do when he said “love your neighbor as yourself.” Jesus associated with tax collectors and prostitutes; he did not discriminate against women, Gentiles or Samaritans. Likewise, we should not discriminate.
Making new hires sign a statement of inerrancy that is interpreted (as Mark Wright, Dean Turbeville and Vaughn Hathaway do) is akin to making Christians sign an oath authored by man in direct violation of the Westminster Confession. It is wrong. It is not traditional ARP (we deplore sectarianism) and it is not traditional Erskine (we have never discriminated against other Christians on the basis that they weren’t pure enough).
Does this prohibit those of the Catholic or Jewish faith from becoming professors at Erskine? If it does, in my opinion, it is just wrong.
Jewish, verboten. Catholics — purgatory: romance language profs may receive indulgences.
Mary Lou Holmes
Jim: The so-called “inerrancy” statement is being interpreted by SOME to mean that THEIR view of what the Bible says is the only one. This is also erroneously being called “evangelical.” Billy Graham was an evangelical; he was not an inerrantist. What “evangelical” and “inerrantist” really means in this context is “fundamentalist.” The rest of the world calls this “fundamentalism.” This view holds that Jews, Muslims, Methodists, PCUSA, Episcopalians, Lutherans and other Christians who don’t sign an oath of alligiance to the inerrancy statement would not be hired to teach. It is not traditional ARP, it is not traditional Erskine.
It is bigotry dressed up as religion.
Mary Lou Holmes
Discrimination of this sort has been struck down by the Supreme Court for schools that receive public funds, whether directly or indirectly. I would invite anyone who believes religion can excuse discrimination to research it.
Posted on 12/22/10:
Mary Lou Holmes
No, Janis [Cunningham – Editor note: Ms. Cunningham speaks to the other side of issues on the FB site of the Erskine alums], I am not practicing any form of discrimination in hiring. I am not hiring anyone. “Discrimination” has a legal definition as does “reverse discrimination.” What you describe doesn’t meet either one of those tests.
Becky, I believe we are talking about two different things. There has been open discrimination against Methodists by Erskine in the last ten years. There has been open discrimination against Catholics by Erskine in the last ten years. These are new practices. The Erskine of J.M. Lesesne would not have tolerated such practices. During the Civil Rights movement, there were people, like Janis, who claimed religious freedom shielded them from civil rights laws requiring the school to enroll African Americans. You heard Vaughn Hathaway say he wants to challenge that even now. Now they (Hathaway, Wright, Turbeville, Janis, Mulner, DeWitt and others) are holding up the cloak of religious freedom to shield other shameless bigoted practices. Now it seems preferable to Janis and Turbeville to have Mormons rather than Presbyterians at Erskine if those Presbyterians go to churches which allow women and homosexuals to be ordained. Mormons don’t even have the same Bible you do, but you call it “inerrancy” that you have in common? I’ve heard you call Mormons Christian more than once, but I’ve never heard you call PCUSA Christian.
Mary Lou Holmes
Janis: You say “we are free to choose those that fit our beliefs. They all set admission guidelines and we have to meet those in order to be accepted. Diversity in education is a very good thing. Liberals tend to love diversity and be the first to embrace it with one exception, and that is when it involves conservative Christianity.”
We ARE conservative Christians. We do embrace conservative Christianity. Our values are the same as they were when Erskine was founded. Morals combined with knowledge.
What we don’t embrace is fundamentalism posing as Christianity. We don’t embrace cults. We don’t embrace sectarianism. We don’t embrace discrimination that is against federal law that will jeopardize our institution’s funding. As the definition of “inerrantist” has become, over time, more and more fundamentalist/authoritarian, we can all see that it is obviously at war with academic freedom and the goals of higher education. Fundamentalism represents indoctrination, not intellectual curiosity. It represents authoritarianism, not individuality. It represents following orders rather than reason. Fundamentalism has no place in higher education.
In the debate, controversial Erskine English professor Dr. Bill Crenshaw denies that there was an Adam and an Eve. Dr. Crenshaw worries about the “science classroom.” Should an English professor be more worried about the English classroom? With regard to his “elephant question,” one wonders who he has asked besides the 18 year old Freshmen in his classroom.
Ray [King] — I don’t think I could explain it better than you just did.
Janis — Thanks for answering. You are the first person who accepts inerrancy who has given me a straight answer. Let’s build on that to illustrate the problem.
You say “The Theory of Evolution, as I understand it, would eliminate a literal Adam and Eve and that would be unacceptable to most Bible believing Christians. I assume theories would be taught in science classes at Christian colleges.”
You’re right — our understanding of evolution (not the theory of evolution) does eliminate a *literal* Adam and Eve. So, yes, clearly that would disturb those who read the Bible literally, which includes at least some inerrantists.
Now we come again to the root question: what happens in the science classroom? Are science professors told that they cannot teach evolution as fact when all of their training and education in biology is based on evolution as fact? Will the church require that they deny science for dogma?
You’re saying they will. I think that you could be right. If they do, if science professors have to lie about the science they teach, then how is Erskine a college?
And just so we don’t get hung up on this tangent we look at this, we should remind ourselves that we are talking about two things here: evolution as fact and the theory of evolution.
Evolution is a fact. Common descent is a fact. No serious scientist or scientific organization would argue otherwise.
A scientific theory is an explanation of observed facts — the heliocentric theory of the solar system, the germ theory of disease, the Big Bang theory, and the theory of evolution, are all explanations of fact. They are not hunches on their way to becoming facts. They *explain* facts. The theory of evolution explains the process of how evolution occurs. It explores and explains the mechanisms of evolution. So the theory of evolution will continue to grow and change as our understanding of the fact (and the facts) of evolution continue to develop and become more sophisticated.
So when we’re talking about what happens in the science classroom, it would make no sense to argue that evolution is “only a theory” or that facts change.
The question then, based on your correct assumption about the literal Adam and Eve, is this: how can the church ask science profs to lie about science and still think it can call Erskine a college? What happens to a college when dogma can trump accepted, in this case scientific, fact?
And thanks again for answering.
I am eager for the other installments too, Janis. But I’m willing to bet they will shed about as much light as your comments.
I say this because of my own experiences — I have asked as many subscribers to inerrancy as I have found the elephant question, the root question — what happens when fact and the dogma of inerrancy come into conflict? And they answer just as you do, with quotations from scripture and throbbing assurances.
In other words, they run from the question.
The question is both simple and critical to the nature, indeed the existence, of a college: at what point will the doctrinal or dogmatic shibboleths imposed on a college by a supporting or sponsoring denomination undermine the academic and intellectual integrity of the college (and thereby destroy the college as an institution of higher learning)?
Put into more specific and concrete terms, when facts conflict with dogma, what will the church tell the college and its professors to do?
Here’s the answer you’re avoiding: it will tell the professors to deny the facts.
Why won’t you just say that? You know it’s true. Deny the facts. Why won’t any inerrantist say that?
Because you know that such an admission is intellectually irresponsible; because you know that to admit that fact publicly would have horrible consequences for Erskine.
How many times in the history of the Christian church has the church tried to impose dogma on factual understanding? I don’t know, but I do know how many times the church has been proven right when it has chosen that battle. None. Zero. Nada.
But you want Erskine to do what? Teach flood geology? Deny that homo sapiens have evolved as have all other life on the planet? Teach the Genesis story of creation as fact? Deny the evidence for the 4.45 billion year age of the earth, or the 13.5 or so billion year age of the universe?
The dogma of inerrancy, you see, has particular and concrete implications in the daily intellectual life of the college. It is not an abstraction here, not an interesting theological speculation. It has real consequences. In essence, it forces the college to choose whether to live in a demon-haunted world or a reality-based community.
But I have yet to meet an inerrantist, especially one in academia, who will have the courage to say so, to say simply, for example,”No, you must not teach that the theory of evolution is one of the most significant and robust understandings of nature that man has achieved; you may teach the theory of evolution as a popular misunderstanding, but not as the truth; you must also discredit the facts on which the theory of evolution is based.”
The question is again: What happens in the classroom when facts contradict dogma?
I don’t think you’ll answer that question. I don’t think the three part series in the ARP Magazine will either.
You should and it should. We need honest discussion, not equivocation.
Dr. Crenshaw demonstrates something less than a gentle touch with Erskine alum John Randolph Harrison. Obviously, they hold different opinions. This was posted about 12/23/10.
Okay — One problem in trying to have a conversation about these issues is that people are unequally informed about them — but they often think they are very well informed. For example, when I said that evolution was both a fact and a theory, I was roundly dismissed by Randy and told — well, here’s what he said:
“I guess you don’t understand the definition of a scientific theory. Shame for an English prof. Don’t have time to go round n round with you. Been there done that. G’bye.”
Okay — I get ignorance. We are all born ignorant. But we don’t have to nurture wignornace (willful ignorance) or agnorance (arrogance and ignorance combined).
Evolution IS both theory and fact. BUT — as a critical thinking teacher, I don’t expect you to accept what I say without evidence, so I’m attaching ten links you can check out for yourself. I have to admit partiality to the YouTube vids, but there’s lots of text-based stuff too.
Not just for you, Randy.
TalkOrigins: a definitive site for evolving matters
WikiPedia: the new old standby
UCBerkely: a college in CA
National Center for Science Education (2)
American Chemical Society
Not Just A Theory
PBS Evolution Library
and Two YouTube videos which are pretty good
In a post on 12/27/10, current Erskine College student Matt Diaz states that both “Trinity” and “inerrancy” are not Biblical terms and gives the impression that they should not be used. He also states that the Bible is just a “guide.”
I wouldn’t require anyone to use the word ‘Trinity’ since it is not in the Bible. But, when comparing the Trinity to inerrancy, you have evidence for the Trinity whereas you lack any for inerrancy, especially “inerrancy” as defined by ARPdom.
The word “Trinity” is non-Biblical. The very concept, and word, of inerrancy is non-Biblical
You’re missing the point. Am I, or have I, argued that the Bible contains errors?
The Word is Christ, not the Bible. “The Word”, Biblically, can also refer to God’s commandments, which are found IN the Bible. Are Paul’s personal opinions also God’s Word or are they found in the Bible, which also contains God’s Word?
The Bible is not the foundation, but Christ is. The Bible is a sort of guide, instructions, letter, meant to edify and teach its readers and bring them to the God found in the Bible (and the definite article is VERY Biblical, mind you). God isn’t contained in the Bible, for He is infinitely larger, nor are all the cosmological truths, nor is all of theology, but certainly it is everything we need, at least for now in this life. Anything more would have been too much and God intended to give this much to us through His providence.
There is a tendency to make the Bible more than it is, trying to make it do more than it was meant to do, like trying to make it answer how old the earth is or interpreting a width of the Flood or extent of the Tower of Babel.
Ms. Janis Cunningham is one of the outspoken voices for evangelical Christianity on the site. The following post on 12/29/10 is a good example of her writings. She may not be a lion of Judah, but she is most certainly one of the lionesses of Judah. She responds to Mr. Matt Diaz’s posts. She also has given many responses to Dr. Crenshaw that are not in this article.
I think the issue Matt raises about having a diverse faculty beyond evangelical Christians boils down to the fact that many here just want Erskine to be an excellent, secular liberal arts college with some random Christian influence, which it already is now. You can go to Wofford, Converse, PC, and Furman and find the same thing. All very fine schools. My husband and I went to two of these many years ago, and I can tell you that despite the fact that they called themselves Christian related or influenced at the time, there was absolutely zero integration of faith and learning in the classes. There just happened to be some Christian there.
When a school is truly a Christian one, it will look at every subject through the lens of a biblical world view…English, sciences, math, history,etc. So yes, David Danehower, all scientific theories would be taught, but there would be discussion about how these theories can be integrated with biblical text, but even moreso, it would emphasize the marvels of God’s creation. Christian colleges often have the professors beginning the class with prayer. God is the creator of all things, including knowledge, and we can recognize that and honor Him as we learn every subject.
I am sad that I did not get that kind of education . I (as well as some other ARP members and Erskine alumni) would love to see the ARP have a college and seminary that makes Christ preeminent in everything, taking every thought captive and making it obedient to Christ!
17 “And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell”
2 Corinthians 10:4-5
4 ” The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
Contrary to what Bill has posted, I have little fear. I have complete trust in God that He will either make Erskine into a fine Christian institution or have the church disassociate itself from the schools if He no longer desires the church to have that ministry. For those who believe truth is relative, you will not be happy to restrict hiring to evangelical Christians. But for those who believe Christ should be preeiminent in everything, it is essential that evangelicals be hired as the Erskine Board of Trustees has established. It is out of great love that we would want our young men and women to be firmly established with a Christian worldview so they CAN live their lives with optimism and the assurance that God’s Word is trustworthy and honor Him in all things.
Dr. Bill Crenshaw posted on 12/29/10 that belief in inerrancy is a “soul-eating pathology.”
I had a student, a very bright student, a science major years and years ago, who told me that if he ever discovered one error, one contradiction in the Bible, his faith would fall apart. Ironically, he thought that was the sign of a strong faith.
It is a sign of an incredibly fragile faith, a house of cards, totally unable to withstand a summer breeze much less the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune which he will inevitably suffer.
I felt sorry for him. I certainly didn’t argue with him.
There are hundreds, maybe thousands of errors and contradictions in the Bible, and not just scribal errors (which God could have prevented, n’est-ce pas?), but errors of fact, contradictions of fact. I could have pointed some out. Not my place.
I told him that he was going to face a serious crisis one day, but that he would get through it.
He may not, for course, unless he breaks through his fear.
Fear will keep him a literalist: fear of ambiguity, fear of not knowing, fear of all the uncertainties that make up our lives. If he can break free of the fear, and I hope he can, he can break free of the prison he and his parents and his early authority figures have put him in.
One of Chaucer’s favorite phrases is “thys unsyker world.” Unsyker means uncertain, unstable, ambiguous, changeable, unfair, unpredictable. True then, true now. The trick to embrace the uncertainties of life, not to try to deny them by using rigid theologies, what Blake called the “mind-forged manacles.” The trick is, paraphrasing Tennyson, to see what *is*.
I hope my old student has broken through his fear, because if he hasn’t by now, the mind-pretzeling he has to put himself through to believe that the Bible is free of error is at best a soul-eating pathology.
On 12/30/10, Dr. Bill Crenshaw wrote the following regarding the accuracy of the writers of the Gospel accounts.
Janis — You asked me this question: “Do you believe what Jesus says is true, Bill?”
In a way, you’re really asking me two questions, one explicit, one implied. The implied question — the assumption hidden the the question you asked — is the question at the heart of the current thread.
To answer your surface question first: Yes, I do believe that Jesus always spoke the truth.
But that’s not really the question you asked me because this question begs the unproven assumption that lies beneath it. The assumption in your question is taken as true when in fact it needs to be proven. In other words, you may very well take the assumption as true, even as a given, while the person questioned would not accept it, would require instead that its validity be demonstrated. The underlying assumption in your question is this: the writers of the four gospels are inerrant.
So your real question it this: “Do you believe what the writers of the gospels say Jesus says is true, Bill?”
My answer to that is this: “I cannot say that I do because the writers of the gospels clearly contradict each other in several matters of fact, including what Jesus says; therefore, while I believe that Jesus always spoke the truth, I cannot affirm that what he is reported to have said was always accurately reported.”
In other words, I cannot affirm that the Bible is inerrant.
It is a fact that Jesus in his life said certain things. It is a fact that Jesus in his life did not say certain other things. I cannot affirm that the gospels report what Jesus said with complete accuracy, especially given the contradictions and errors internal to individual gospels or arising among them.
The issue, again, is what is meant by inerrancy. One does not have to assert that the Bible is inerrant in order to be a Christian. That is the key issue.
After Dr. Norman posted a link to Reformation21, the following anonymous post was written on 12/31/10. Were some shocked at Dr. Norman’s link to Reformation21? This posting retreats to an argument for pity.
While I love the spirited discussions and the lively debates, my concern is for the staff that we are losing. I know some of the reason they are leaving has to do with the debates that are taking place here. People who are not alumni and those who are part of the SAFE group who started this then left Erskine have NO idea the lives they have left in turmoil. They will never see the real fall out of what they started. I have been a part of Erskine for a long time. Long before they were even thought of. They got angry, wrote a letter, duped some people into signing it (at least some of the people) and look at us now. I haven’t been vocal here for some time, but things are not getting better. I’ve been waiting for that to happen. I’ve been waiting for the stress on campus for staff to lessen and it’s not. People walk on egg shells all of the time. Every time someone resigns, or has a position that gets eliminated people tighten their jaws. No one feels safe. That is not Erskine. I love Erskine. I work here because I want the students here to love Erskine. I want my young family members to attend here and have experiences like I did. At least, I used to. Now, I wonder how long I’ll be allowed to work here. That makes me sad. Not because I don’t think I can find another job, but because I love working here.
The following two posts on 1/12/11 reveal much. They seem to know what is taking place on the Bylaws Committee of the Erskine BOT. These posts also make clear that the ECFoundation is a political-leverage mechanism. Well, at least they are admitting the true intentions of the ECFoundation.
Nancy Hall Gautier
I thought long and hard about posting the link on this site knowing there would be a call for restraint in our comments. However, I felt if the readers of the Aquila Report have knowledge of the email then those of us who went to Erskine, donate to Erskine, and care about Erskine should at least have some knowledge of it. Having seen the email myself, I will agree with you that the Aquila article has a very TOS slant. Norman did make the comment that “All of our fair weather friends are gone”. I hope he realizes that some of us donated more to Erskine this past year when things were not so” fair weather” . Also, I hope he realizes that some of us are also waiting for the bylaws committee report to see if we wish to continue donating or not. I know it will be frowned upon that I said so. It is everyone’s right to decide to not donate if an institution or cause is not heading in the direction they agree with.Judgement of said people should be withheld.
He also comments that the rumors and conspiracy theories have adversely affected staff morale. I am not sure which “rumors” he refers to……maybe the one about his salary. For the most part, I have found this site to be VERY supportive of the faculty and staff at Erskine. I hope if they are reading this that they know I truly support them and want the best for Erskine.
My main purpose in posting the link was to show that TOS is still working behind the scenes. Someone shared the email with Don Clements. I doubt it was Dr. Norman.
David A. Danehower
Thanks for your message. Nothing you have said in your email differs much from my own feelings and thoughts and you most definitely are not being “frowned upon” by me! I too recently sent Erskine a good donation…. well, actually it was an outstanding donation coming from me and compared with my past contributions, which have been regular but relatively small. But from now on until this thing is resolved to my satisfaction, all my money is going to the EC Foundation. Aside from the work of the By Laws Committee, that is the single best place we can still exercise a bit of leverage on what direction the College takes. As for “fair weathered friends”, I’d like to know what David Norman calls those within the ARP Church who would have cut all funding off last year?
I am getting pretty POed at Norman’s continued references to the “rumors and conspiracy theories” coming from online. Any morale problems at Erskine (and I do not doubt for a second that they exist) come directly from the attempted actions of the MC and TOS.
Norman’s email reads like something I would expect from a college student (well, come to think of it, he isn’t that far removed from being one!). As I said in my reply, I think it is something he dashed off. Did he think that the message would remain in confidence??? Heck, I bet there were alumni and TOS members who read the thing before some BoT members did! As much as I had and continue to have some lingering hopes for the guy, David Norman is clearly out of his league right now. If things will quiet down and if he will begin to accept some wise counsel from folks on both sides of the issues, then there is hope he can become a decent President. But from what I have heard and seen, I am, sadly, not impressed to date.
As for your concerns for the staff – rest assured, I think that the vast majority would stand on the side of the alumni. It is interesting and somewhat disheartening that those who have the most to lose in this “debate” – the employees and students at Erskine – have the least say in the matter. If anything, I feel like the alumni have become a de facto voice for those who must remain silent for fear of their jobs. In the case of at least some faculty and staff, I know this to be the case.
Glad to have you back posting on the site – you clearly are keeping up with the goings on the other “sites”. It’s interesting to me that Chuck Wilson has gone somewhat quiet. I actually have enjoyed a couple of the things he wrote over Christmas! But I also know he is predicting that things are going to “get nasty” (that’s a quote)in February/March, and I don’t think that is just based on speculation on his part. TOS is still out there and they have undoubtedly been active. But we need to give them nothing to point to – alumni really do need to continue to hold the high ground and let TOS get down and dirty. Maybe then folks, including even more members of the ARP Church, will see this group for what they are – narrow minded and “my way or the highway” types who can act in very un-Christian ways when they believe it is to their advantage.
Charles W. Wilson
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