Jul 28, 2011 | Comments 45
Erskine Seminary was founded to be the seminary of the ARP Church, and, therefore, the expectation in the ARP Church was that the seminary of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church would represent and nurture and advance the theological focus of the ARP Church. It is safe to say that it would have been unthinkable at that time for anyone in the ARP Church to envision Erskine Seminary as a place where there would be attempts to undermine and even betray the theological tenets of the ARP Church. In the last 40 years, what once was unthinkable has been thought and has taken place and is continuing at Erskine Seminary.
Erskine College is the oldest private college in South Carolina. Erskine College was founded in the late 1830s partially in response to the deism, infidelity, and anti-Christian teaching and attacks of Thomas Cooper at the College of South Carolina (today, the University of South Carolina). The vision of the founders of Erskine College was for the school to be an evangelical Christian college that was a counterbalance and an alternative to the College of South Carolina for all evangelical Christians in South Carolina. The founders’ vision was for Erskine to be a place that honored Christ and the Bible, a place that was a safe haven for evangelical Christian students where both their evangelical Christian faith and intellects would be nurtured, and a place where evangelical Christian students could get an education apart from the demeaning and ridiculing harangues of a teacher like Thomas Copper, who was thoroughly committed to propagating infidelity.
Below is a description of Thomas Cooper that was written by an ARP historian, Dr. Robert Lathan, in his history of the first 100 years of the ARP Church, History of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church of the South: 1782-1882.
Dr. Cooper’s learning was certainly very extensive, but it may be doubted whether he was either profound or accurate. He had read much and thought little. . . .
. . . In addition to the fact that Dr. Cooper had the reputation of being a learned man, it was certainly known that he had no sympathy with the religion of the Lord Jesus Christ. His much learning, if such was really the case, had made him mad. . . .
The influence of Dr. Cooper for evil was certainly very great. His life had been spent in a continuous storm. He seems to have taken a peculiar pleasure in disturbing the peace of every community in which he was thrown, either by accident or business. . . His fame rested solely on his wonderful powers as a lecturer. He hated all his life the Christian religion, and, perhaps, without designing it, transferred his hatred to those who professed it. In this opposition to Christianity, Dr. Cooper was honest, if such a thing is possible. . . Dr. Cooper exhumed errors long buried, paraded before the world their ghastly forms, and polluted society with their noisome stench. . . . (pp. 347-350).
The following is taken from “The Statement of Historical Significance” in the application to the National Register of Historical Places for the Long Cane ARP Church:
Growing sectional tensions between North and South, meanwhile, prompted an 1834 resolution by the Synod of the South stating in part, “it is prejudicial to the Southern church to send our young men to the North or West, either to college or to a theological seminary.” When the leaders of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church looked to Columbia and South Carolina College (now the University of South Carolina), they were appalled at the public pronouncements and policies of Thomas Cooper, who, as president of the college, was an outspoken critic of Christianity, the Bible, and the clergy, and particularly of church-affiliated education. In 1822 Cooper called “the systematic hostility of the clergy” to any institution they did not control the single most significant obstacle to the success of South Carolina College, and many clergymen and laymen alike reacted to such remarks with equal force, calling Cooper’s words an “illiberal, unrighteous, and sweeping charge” and appealing “to the candor and good sense of the Christian commonwealth” in South Carolina. Resolutions in the General Assembly calling for Cooper’s removal from the presidency accomplished nothing, though he did eventually resign first from the presidency and then from teaching altogether at the college by 1834.
Such dissatisfaction with the state of education, particularly theological education, in the Carolinas backcountry contributed to the establishment of Clark and Erskine Seminary, at Due West, in Abbeville County, in 1837. Two years later Clark and Erskine Seminary, with an expanded curriculum and additional faculty, became a college as well as a seminary, the first denominational college of any kind in South Carolina. It was renamed Erskine College in 1843.
Sad to say, the vision of the founders of Erskine College has been betrayed. Thomas Cooper’s voice now lives and prevails at Erskine College in the teaching of Dr. Bill Crenshaw, who is as much an infidel and anti-Christian as Cooper was. Now, in spite of the institutional advertising that promotes Erskine College as a “Christian College” and all the ecclesiastical pronouncements by the ARP Church directing the trustees of the Erskine board to restore the Christian heritage, Erskine College has become, in large measure, just another secular college.
The struggle for Erskine in the ARP Church has been long (over 40 years) and bitter. Time and time again, the efforts of the ARP Church to set an evangelical Christian vision and course for Erskine College have been either deflected or thwarted by administrations and/or boards that have attempted, on the one hand, to appease the evangelical Christian concerns of the ARP Church with promises of change that they had no intentions of fulfilling, while, on the other hand, they have attempted to mollify the infidelity of a secular-minded faculty by giving them free hand to do what they desired. The unspoken compromise that has been worked out is a compartmentalization that has resulted in a secular college with a Bible department that, at least presently, has evangelical Christian professors. The end result of this has been the domination of the institution by Dr. Bill Crenshaw, whose voice of unbelief and ridicule of Christianity has marked multiple generations of students with doubt rather than faith. Ironically, Erskine College has now become the very thing that it was founded to oppose!
What is the future for Erskine College? Who knows! One thing is for certain, the present divisions and tensions make it impossible for the status quo to continue in Due West. The General Synod of the ARP Church still clings to a vision for an Erskine College as an evangelical Christian college where evangelical Christian faith and learning are integrated. Dr. David Norman, the new President, also has a Christian vision for Erskine College that is similar to that of the ARP Church. Both of these visions of hope have little chance of success!
The majority of the faculty members, many on the Erskine board, and a large and very vocal segment of the Erskine alums have another vision for Erskine College. Their vision for Erskine College is very different from that of the ARP Church and President Norman. They do not want an evangelical Christian college. Their vision is being hammered out on the Alums’ Facebook Site (Alumni for Erskine). As to be expected, their way is being led by “the Due West Thomas Cooper,” Dr. Bill Crenshaw.
Below, taken from the Alums’ Facebook Site, is how they envision the mission of Erskine College. Of course, leading the way is “The Due West Pied Piper of Secularism,” Dr. Bill Crenshaw.
Dr. Bill Crenshaw’s career at Erskine College has covered 35 years, and in the last 35 years his voice has been the voice advocating secularism. Doubtlessly, he is the one who has set the agenda for the college’s philosophy of education – not the General Synod of the ARP Church. Below, Dr. Bill Crenshaw states his vision for the future of Erskine College. (This post and subsequent posts are as they appear on Facebook.)
David Danehower [Editor’s note: one of the moderators of the site] has asked for our visions of Erskine. Mine is that Erskine be a real college.
Erskine teaches real science.
Covenant, Patrick Henry, Liberty U., and all other so-called conservative evangelical colleges teach bogus science, false science, science that is not really science.
In other words, they teach lies. . . .
Science is the litmus test on the validity of the educational enterprise. If a school teaches real science, it’s a pretty safe bet that all other departments are sound. If it teaches bogus science, everything else is suspect. . . .
Modern science transcends the parochialisms of culture — language, history, religion, theology. Especially, in the matter at hand, by religion and theology. Both science and theology make truth-claims about world we live on and the universe that world inhabits. . . .
I want a real college, not one that rejects facts, knowledge, and understanding because they conflict with a narrow religious belief. Any college that lets theology trump fact is not a college; it is an institution of indoctrination. It teaches lies.
Colleges do not teach lies. Period.
In case the reader missed Dr. Crenshaw’s operative norm, here it is again: “Science is the litmus test on the validity of the educational enterprise.” By the way, this vision for Erskine College has been in place for the last 35 years. It does not matter what the ARP Church has voted for or how the school has been described in glowing terms by administrators and trustees at Synod meetings, Dr. Crenshaw’s agenda has been the operative vision.
When responding to Mrs. Janis Cunningham, an ARP in Charlotte, who took exception to Dr. Crenshaw’s view and cited Covenant College as a legitimate educational model for a Christian college, Dr. Crenshaw responded with the following post.
Well, I took Janus’s advice and spent a good bit of time today going through Covenant College’s web page. I don’t know what Janus is talking about. Covenant is a PCA school and is NOT what Erskine should or wants to be but it IS in the same indoctrination business as Patrick Henry. They share the same presuppositions and world views; anti-science; anti-intellectual, pro-indoctrination, pro-dinosaurs on the ark, YEC, theocratic, mind-numbing, authoritarian, patriarchal, bubble view. Not a real college. A real indoctrination factory. Factually challenged. Thinking within prescribed limits. Submit. Obey.
Send your children there, Janus. Leave us the heck alone.
Wow! Is this an English professor (who is not an ARP) at the college of the ARP Church telling an ARP not to send her children to Erskine College? Is there any wonder why Erskine College has lost credibility with the ARP Church?
As I have read Dr. Crenshaw words, I have come to this conclusion: he is a modern day Thomas Cooper. Like Cooper, he is functionally an atheist who, in his rabid, secular fundamentalism, preaches his views with as much vigor and determination as an old-time Methodist revivalist of 100 years ago. Indeed, he is an evangelist of infidelity!
And what are the results of his often repeated message of “I-hate-the-Bible-and-the-evangelical-Christian-faith-as-I-honor-myself-as-the-one-who-sets-science-as-the-litmus-test-for-Erskine-College-and-what-a-college-is-or-is not?” Well, one can begin with the many participants on the Alums’ Facebook Site who revere Dr. Crenshaw as “the Erskine Oracle” and repeat his secular brain-dribble as mantras that no one can doubt and still be educated. Below is a testimonial from Ms. Janie Bryan Simpson of how Dr. Crenshaw “made a difference in her life” and saved her from the corrupting idea of “integration of Christian faith and academic excellence”:
Dr. Crenshaw, it is a pleasure to be reacquainted with your wit, your intelligence and your innate ability to help others “think” I am glad to see there is still an Erskine professor left who has some common sense about him. As for the argument about “belief” and “acceptance,” I agree wholeheartedly in the importance of the distinction.
I was one of your students around 1990. I am telling my age, but I do not care. I will never forget the lesson i learned when you wrote “God damn you” [Editor’s emphasis] on the chalk board. You explained, saying there was no difference than saying “God bless you.”. Both were sentences in which we were “ordering” God to do our bidding. That was when I learned to start thinking as opposed to merely letting my brain settle.
I remember taking history of the Old Testament classes at Erskine. We were NOT taught fundamentalist doctrine. My professor explained the HISTORY surrounding the books of the Old Testament. Coming away from that class, I came to my own educated conclusion that stories such as a “the Great Flood,” “Adam and Eve,” “Jonah and the Whale,” “David in the Lions’ Den,” and of course, “the parting of the Red Sea” were stories used for specific purposes.
What a shame the Erskine of old no longer exists. It mattered not what faith or non-faith one practiced during my years there. It was a time to grow and bond with close friends I still have until this day – time of discovery – finding out who I was – who I wanted to be.
I would not be the confident woman I am today if it were not for Erskine and professors who made me learn to think – such as Dr. Crenshaw. (And yes, I would never deign to use his first name. He deserves more respect than that).
Thank you for the difference you have made in my life, Dr. Crenshaw. Keep writing on this board. Eventually someone will listen.
What a ghastly testimonial for Erskine College: the triumph of anti-Christ! The only thing left to say is: “Praise Crenshaw! He sets his students free! Amen!”
Over at Erskine Seminary one also finds that the vision of ETS as the seminary of the ARP Church that honors and nourishes the orthodox and evangelical and Reformed faith of the ARP Church has also been betrayed in the last 40 years. A case can be made that, during the administration of Dr. Randy Ruble, he lowered the academic entrance level of the seminary to the lowest common denominator in order to get students; he largely effaced the identity of Erskine Seminary as “the seminary of the ARP Church”; he gave a 20-plus-year voice to Barthianism by hiring Dr. Merwyn Johnson, and he turned Erskine Seminary into a quasi-Methodist institution in order to get students who would pay to finance “the Ruble Ramble.”
Then, under the disastrous administration of Dr. Neely Gaston, an effort was made to turn ETS into a quasi-PCUSA institution. He lost the approval of the seminary by the United Methodist Church by failing to comply with Methodist guidelines and he lost the approval of the AME Church because of an altercation with an AME Bishop. Gaston lost the trust of the ARP Church when he created an ecclesiastical and theological firestorm in the ARP Church by promoting and protecting neo-Barthian professor Dr. Richard Burnett and by hiring neo-Barthian professor Dr. Michael Bush. He intensified the strength of that storm when he then gave tenure to Dr. Burnett. He allowed non-Christian clergy into the DMin program and lost the trust of all evangelicals. He foolishly led ETS into financial deficits year after year by his proliferation of staff and by imprudent schemes of expansion. He emptied classrooms of students, and, because of his administrative malfeasance, he brought down academic troubles with ATS that are yet to be resolved.
Even now this story of woe continues at Erskine Seminary: for their courses in Systematic Theology students may choose either an orthodox track that is taught by Dr. RJ Gore or a neo-Barthian track that is taught by Dr. Richard Burnett. Indeed, that is a move that will not attract ARP and other theologically conservative students! Sadly, in the last three years, the most publicly vocal professor at ETS has been that of Dr. Burnett, who loves to sing “I-hate-the-inerrancy-position-of the-ARP-Church-come-let-me-teach-you-in-the-ways-of-Barth-who-is-the-answer-to-all-questions-of-Biblical-authority.”
What is the vision for Erskine Seminary’s future? Who knows! The Editor of ARPTalk is not hopeful! As Erskine Seminary is now constituted, it does not have much of a future! It does not have much of a constituency. At this time, Erskine Seminary is, in terms of its various theologies and constituencies, a schizophrenic disaster that has long been off its medication. A Search Committee has been organized by the BOT to find a new Executive Vice President. The Editor has seen the makeup of that committee. It is his opinion that the interests of the ARP Church are not well represented by that committee.
Erskine College is now the institution that it was founded to counter. Erskine Seminary is no longer “the seminary of the ARP Church.” Erskine College and Seminary is now Associate Reformed Presbyterian IN NAME ONLY – and what a scandalizing of the name! With the General Synod’s failure of nerve to support the actions of “the Snow Synod,” the prospects have been lost that the college and seminary can be regained by the ARP Church apart from a protracted struggle that will be so long and expensive and divisive that Erskine College and Seminary will be destroyed and the ARP Church exhausted by the struggle. It is time for the ARP Church to get on with the business of the Church and let Erskine College and Seminary go. It is also time to let them go without asking for any sort of financial reimbursement to the General Synod. Indeed, the God who owns “the cattle on a thousand hills” is able to provide for the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. The ARP Church does not need the proceeds of infidelity and heresy!
Give the institution to the State of South Carolina. If the State of South Carolina does not want Erskine College and Seminary, then give it to those who are clamoring for it. Give it to the Facebook Alums!
The Editor does not want anything from Erskine College and Seminary for the ARP Church. Once again, the Editor is opposed to the idea that the ARP Church should prosper from the proceeds of infidelity and betrayal – the thirty silver coins of Judas.
It is time to give Erskine College to the Facebook alums who have been characterized as “a bunch of idiots” (BOIs). It is time to give Erskine College to Dr. Bill Crenshaw and to his Crenshawites whom he has taught spelling, grammar, critical thinking, and infidelity. In truth, this inept group of BOIs could not successfully run an overstocked Food Bank in the middle of a concentration camp packed with starving people. Let them kill Erskine and weep their crocodile tears for the memory!
It is time to give Erskine Seminary to Dr. Richard Burnett and all the neo-Barthians he can salvage out of the apostate and shipwrecked PCUSA who have made the PCUSA the whore of the Antichrist. Free rein can then be given to theological strangeness and deviation and Erskine Seminary can go the way of nonexistence. At that point, thankfully, the ARP Church will be free of the cancer that is Erskine Seminary.
These are my thoughts,
Charles W. Wilson
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