An Interview with Dr. R. J. Gore: Regarding the “Statement on Scripture by Concerned Erskine Faculty Members”
Apr 27, 2011 | Comments 8
EDITOR’S REMARKS: The interview below was conducted via telephone and e-mail. Dr. Gore was preparing to leave to conduct training programs for Army chaplains in Alaska and his answers are brief. He asked that the Editor emphasize that his responses are personal; he does not speak for the group.
ARPTalk: Why did you make this statement?
Dr. Gore: Well, that is a good question. My motivation is quite simple. The issue of Scripture, its inspiration and inerrancy continue to be matters of great interest in our denomination and at Erskine. Several of us have had ongoing discussions about the current controversy and concluded that it was a good time for those of us who believe in inerrancy to make a simple statement to that effect, noting what we affirm and what we find unacceptable. BTW, this is not the first thing I have said about inerrancy and the importance of the complete trustworthiness of Scripture. For example, I addressed this issue back in 1998 when I was appointed VP and Dean at the seminary. (See Vision Statement). Moreover, I have publicly posted my course notes on the doctrine of Scripture for a number of years. (See notes at this link). Of course, my colleague, Dr. Evans, has written a number of important documents on this controversy as well.
ARPTalk: Why release this statement at this time?
Dr. Gore: Of course, this weekend is an important one in the church year, but I suspect you are asking something else in this question. One of the factors that encouraged me to sign this document is this: the President of Erskine College and Seminary, Dr. David Norman, has recently published three articles on the nature of Scripture. I appreciate the fact that he has taken his responsibility to uphold the doctrinal standards for Erskine employment and has written those articles, among other reasons, to explain his understanding of Synod’s declaration on Scripture. While I would have framed the discussion a bit differently if I had written the articles (theologians and philosophers often disagree over who has the clearer vision!), I wanted to lend a voice of support to his affirmation. I know that some have taken him to task for his articles in the ARP Magazine and we (those who signed the statement) thought it wise to voice support sooner rather than later. It did take some time to craft this document, and committee work tends to be time consuming. Frankly, the timing just worked out for a Good Friday release.
ARPTalk: What do you expect the administration and the board to do?
Dr. Gore: Well, in the statement, we simply encourage them to move forward with due regard for the importance of this foundational issue of Scriptural authority. I don’t expect anyone to violate the faculty handbook or to do anything to vacate promises made, even when those promises were made to faculty who do not support the synod position on Scripture. What I hope the board will do is this: first, recognize that our President, who has affirmed Synod’s position on Scripture, is not alone. Indeed, there are a number of faculty voices who have joined with his voice to affirm the ARP Church’s doctrine of Scripture. Second, seek to hold administrators accountable to Synod’s definition of an evangelical Christian, including its statement on Scripture, as a baseline for employment at Erskine. Personally, I have great confidence in our seminary’s Acting Vice President, Dr. Steve Lowe. Steve has been a member of the Evangelical Theological Society (which affirms the inerrancy of Scripture in the original documents) longer than he has been a faculty member at Erskine.
ARPTalk: Not everyone on the faculty signed the statement. Can you address that?
Dr. Gore: Well, yes and no. It was not shared with all faculty members; the original editors gave it to some who signed and to some who decided not to sign. The decision to invite participation was subjective but not entirely arbitrary. We did not want the document released prematurely, and those who did not sign maintained the confidence we requested. I had hoped for another signature or two. However, each faculty member must speak for himself and his own conscience on this matter. For me to speak on behalf of those who chose not to sign would be inappropriate and would betray discussions that were conducted in confidence. I am certain that no one signed or declined to sign without giving the matter serious thought and prayer. I am not comfortable saying anything more about the matter. Well, one more thing. Dr. Evans tells me it is not a big deal to make adjustments to the file. Should any faculty colleague want to add his or her signature, such an addition would be welcomed.
ARPTalk: How do you expect this to be received by our Synod?
Dr. Gore: I would hope for two responses from our church, particularly from ARP ministers and elders. First, I would hope they are cheered by the fact that their college and seminary president, with the public support of some Erskine faculty members, has committed himself to support the Synod position on Scripture. Second, I would hope that our ministers and elders are encouraged by Dr. Norman’s leadership and this faculty statement to work towards a better relationship between Erskine and the ARP Church. There is much healing that must occur, and that healing will occur more quickly if there is clarity on the values that we share. No value is more foundational than what we believe about the Word of God.
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