Same Ol’ MO

 

When the General Synod of the ARP Church meets and passes position statements on matters pertaining to “faith and practice,” what bearing do those pronouncements have on Erskine College and Graduate School of Religion (EC&GSR)? Since funding, board appointments, and a health insurance program are the only connections left between the ARP Church and EC&GSR, does what the ARP Church believes have any bearing on EC&GSR?

For more than 40 years, the modus operandi of the administrators of Erskine College & Seminary (now EC&GSR) was to ignore ALL statements of “faith and practice” made by the ARP Church. Should we now expect the newly restructured EC&GSR of President David Norman’s administration to function differently?

The meetings of General Synod in 1976 and 2009 were similar; both meetings witnessed numerous Erskine students present and openly complaining about heretical teaching, a lax moral climate, and an administration opposed to upholding Christian faith and morality at Erskine. The Synod meetings between 1976 and 1979 are remembered for passing motions aimed at Erskine. Three were (1) “The Philosophy of Christian Higher Education,” (2) a statement decrying alcohol abuse on campus, and (3) a directive to the board and administration instructing them not to hire or retain Bible teachers who did not affirm the evangelical and Reformed faith of the ARP Church. This “directive” was partially in response to the heretical teaching and offensive behavior of former Bible professor Dr. Margaret Cubine who is still remembered for driving around Due West with profane bumper stickers on her automobile, such as: “Where Is the Messiah When You Need Her?”

With regard to the “directive,” the board and administration essentially told the ARP Church to “go to hell” as the board declared independence. The trustees informed the Synod that hiring and oversight policies were their responsibility and the Synod had no business interfering with their oversight or doubting their loyalty to the ARP Church or competence as trustees. However, in a compromise with Synod in order not to jeopardize Synod’s funding to the college and seminary, a bone was tossed to the ARP Church: a new alcohol policy was instituted and the “The Philosophy of Christian Higher Education” was adopted. The Erskine responses were window-dressing. The MO implemented was to publicly embrace the policies of Synod, but in practice to ignore the policies of Synod – after all, “what happens at Erskine stays in Due West.”

In 1985, the meeting of General Synod saw the Barthianism of seminary professor Dr. Merwyn Johnson being lamented and decried. After investigations and much wringing of hands, Synod was informed that nothing could be done. We were informed that Dr. Johnson was a tenured professor and the accrediting agencies would not allow anything to be done to the wayward professor. We were informed Dr. Johnson was to be feared, for he would surely sue both Erskine and the ARP Church in civil court. We would simply have to put up with him until he retired; however, he would be isolated in his teaching responsibilities. We were assured the future would not see another Barthian hired. However, just after Dr. Johnson’s retirement, more Barthian professors, Drs. Richard Burnett and Michael Bush, were hired. Once again, the same old MO was employed: ignore the desires of the General Synod!

At the General Synod of 2008, strong statements of faith were adopted by General Synod regarding the “inerrancy” of the Bible. The Editor of ARPTalk sat beside then Erskine President Randy Ruble during the debates. After overwhelming votes to adopt the three motions passed, the Editor asked Dr. Ruble: “Can you live with what we have done?” Dr. Ruble answered: “This shouldn’t be a problem!”

Well, the same old MO of ignoring Synod was attempted; however, the situation has changed. The MO of ignoring is not as easy as it once was.

The position statements of the ARP Church are now impacting on the hiring policy of Erskine. Therefore, since 2008, from board members, administrators, faculty members, and alumni groups, loud choruses of moans and groans have been heard coming out of Due West bewailing the ARP Church’s doctrine of inerrancy as a nefarious attempt by the church to reduce Erskine to the academic status of troglodytism.

This year, the 2012 Synod adopted the following:

WHEREAS, the theory of evolution is a source of much debate and confusion in society, educational institutions, and churches today,

WHEREAS, the historicity of Adam has come under attack not only from secular groups and liberal churches, but also from professed evangelical individuals and institutions,

WHEREAS, the Old Testament Scriptures plainly teach that Adam and Eve, as the first man and woman, were the special creation of God, being made in His image (Gen. 1:27; 2:7, 22),

WHEREAS, the New Testament Scriptures confirm that Adam and Eve were real, historical human beings (e.g., Matt. 19:4-5; Luke 3:38; Rom. 5:12-14; 1 Cor. 15:45; 1 Tim. 2:13-14),

WHEREAS, the confessional standards of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church also affirm these truths about Adam and Eve (e.g., WCF 4:2, 7:2; WLC Q. 17; WSC Q. 10),

THEREFORE, be it resolved that Mississippi Valley Presbytery hereby memorializes the General Synod of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church to adopt the following affirmations and denials:

  1. We affirm that Adam and Eve were special, unique, direct creations of God, created in His image, with Adam being formed from the dust of the ground and Eve being made from his side; as such, they were real human beings and the first man and woman;
  2. We affirm that the account of creation of Adam and Eve as found in Genesis 1 and 2 is history;
  3. We deny any teaching that claims that the account of creation of Adam and Eve as found in Genesis 1 and 2 is mythology;
  4. We deny any theory that teaches that Adam and Eve descended from other biological life forms and that such a theory can be reasonably reconciled with either the Standards of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church or Holy Scripture.

The intriguing thing about this memorial as a statement of faith is it does not add anything new to what we ARPs believe. The statement is a reaffirmation spotlighting what we have always affirmed.

The “Adam and Eve” motion passed by Synod was not enthusiastically received by President David Norman. Dr. Norman is fond of speaking of how Erskine and the ARP Church are now drawing closer; however, he sees the “Adam and Eve” motion as an impediment to the process of rapprochement. In fact, he was overheard wondering how he would explain it to his science and biology faculty members – mainly, Dr. Mary Lang Edwards. According to Mr. Cliff Smith, Norman’s Czar of communications at Erskine: “In terms of what we teach, I don’t think it has any direct bearing on our science faculty or our curriculum” (http://www.myrtlebeachonline.com/2012/07/07/2928314/with-adam-and-eve-conservative.html). In the same article the author, Ms. Carolyn Click, noted that President Norman “reassured the faculty the college will not change its classical approach to the sciences . . . including the teaching of Charles Darwin’s commonly held theory of evolution.” Dr. Edwards, Erskine biology professor and proponent of evolution and rabid antagonist of both Intelligent Design and any form of Biblical creationism, said: “The ARP church may adopt position statements but it does not dictate what we teach at Erskine. . . I have never been told what I can teach and I have always been encouraged to teach real science, including evolution. Since this position statement about Adam and Eve was adopted, the president of Erskine and the incoming chairman of the Board of Trustees [Mr. David Conner] have told me (and all of the Biology faculty) to continue teaching as we have always done.”

Well, President Norman seems to have figured out a way to satisfy the concerns of a doctrinaire evolutionist, has he not?

Is this not the same old MO? Is this not another chapter in the long story of Erskine administrators, trustees, and faculty members ignoring the ARP Church?

Dr. Edward is not new to the evolution/creation debate. On February 7, 2006, in the Greenville News, in an article entitled “We Fail the Children of our State if We Dilute Science,” <LINK> Dr. Edwards wrote: “If we don’t include evolutionary biology in our curriculum, we will continue to find ourselves at the bottom of the national rakings.” At the time, Dr. Edwards was an advisor to the Educational Oversight Committee of South Carolina, and she was in conflict with then SC Senator Mike Fair (R-Greenville) in a controversy over proposed science standards for SC public schools which would allow instruction on creationism and Intelligent Design. Dr. Edwards wrote, “Our children will be handicapped if we alter the wording of the evolutionary biology standard as written. Students need a thorough understanding of the undiluted concepts in order to have the best chance to succeed in the sciences in institutions of higher learning in South Carolina.”

The Editor has spent 35 years of his life in South Carolina and has five children who graduated from a SC high school and then attended and graduated from college. Dr. Edwards’ assertions ignore reality. As one who spent a number of years in SC public high schools teaching, she is very aware the problem is not that students are not taught an evolutionary view of creation. It is well documented that the reason our students score poorly and fail in college is because they do not have the requisite skills necessary for reading and writing. In her article, Dr. Edwards makes much of the student’s ability to do “critical thinking.” Well, how is a student going to do “critical thinking” if she does not have the necessary skills to read and write? Dr. Edwards’ article is not about education. Dr. Edwards’ article is about a political agenda involving evolution.

Now, has the Editor missed something? Is it not true Dr. Edwards teaches at a college that calls itself “Christian,” and a college that publicly attests it affirms what the ARP Church affirms? Well, how is it Dr. Edwards stands in direct opposition to what the ARP Church believes?

During the administration of Dr. Randy Ruble, Dr. Edwards was allowed to do and teach whatever she desired. At the time, she had no idea what a “Christian world and life view” of education was. The evidence of the previous statement is found in Dr. Ruble admission before the 2009 General Synod. He acknowledged the Erskine faculty was ignorant of what a “Christian world and life view” was.

At a Christian college, at an ARP Christian college where the administration publicly declares the college’s belief standards are the same as the ARP Church’s, the President and the Chairman of the board inform a biology teacher the church’s public affirmations regarding “Adam and Eve” are irrelevant to what she teaches. A professor who has publicly scorned both Biblical creationism and Intelligent Design is given license to continue her disregard for the ARP Church’s belief system as though it were a trifling matter, and she is protected and sanctioned by both the President and Chairman of the board. What were Dr. Norman and Mr. David Conner thinking? I thought Dr. Norman and Mr. Conner wanted rapprochement with the ARP Church? Well, maybe, all they want is funding from the ARP Church!

For too long, we ARPs have bought the fiction that EC&GSR was the ARP Church in college education and seminary training. Consider the exercise below. The list of administrators and faculty members is compiled from last year’s catalog. Which ones are ARPs?

  • Abalo, Kokou Yano
  • Agnew, Robyn
  • Alson, William Gideon
  • Bell, Robby
  • Blenda, Anna
  • Bruce, Chrystal Dawn
  • Bruce, Todd
  • Burriss, Michael
  • Chaney, Sandra Lynn
  • Christie, Norton Bradley
  • Davis, Jerdone
  • DeCiantis, Scott
  • Edwards, Mary Lang Olson
  • Elsner, Elizabeth L.
  • Elsner, Robert J. F.
  • Evans, William Borden
  • Eves, Terry
  • Farmer, Thomas R.
  • Glick, Robert P.
  • Gore, R. J.
  • Gorka, Artur
  • Grier, Howard Davis
  • Guyette, Frederick W.
  • Haldeman, Janice
  • Haselden, Greg
  • Hayden, Tiffany R.
  • Herring, Jay
  • Jeffords, Ben C.
  • Johnson, Dale
  • Jumper, Joanne G.
  • Kennerly, John F.
  • Kuydendall, James Brooks
  • Linnehan, Sharon
  • Little, Joan Elizabeth
  • Lowe, Mary
  • Lowe, Steve
  • Macaulay, John
  • Magee, Rebecca
  • Makujina, John
  • McCurry, Tracy
  • Melton, Loyd
  • Michel, Esperanza G. M.
  • Michonova-Alexova, Ekaterina I.
  • Mina, Al
  • Morrison, Sara M.
  • Nabholz, Mark A.
  • Nelsen, Naoma
  • Norman, David
  • Old, Hughes O.
  • Parker, Brad
  • Parks, Toney
  • Reames, Bill
  • Reiter, David D.
  • Ritland, David Bruce
  • Rogland, Max
  • Ross, Mark
  • Salinas, Alex
  • Schelp, Richard Charles
  • Schott, Christine
  • Schwab, George
  • Showalter, John Roger
  • Sigler, Amanda
  • Smith, Cliff
  • Smith, Dale
  • Sniteman, Stephen B.
  • Thomas, Howard Edward
  • Weyer, Adam Hayes
  • Wilson, Rick
  • Woodiwiss, Ashley

It is a difficult exercise, is it not? The Editor counts eight; even less regularly attend an ARP congregation. Now, with cutbacks and people leaving, the number of Erskine people who are ARPs and/or worshiping in an ARP congregation is even smaller. As was noted earlier, it is a faction that Erskine is ARP. The only real connection is financial.

It is amazing that at a liberal arts college promoting itself as Christian, ARP, and Reformed and confessional, the head of the Biology department ridicules Biblical creationism and Intelligent Design as anti-intellectual, and a secular, Darwinian view of creation is upheld while the professor is protected and encouraged by both the President and the Chairman of the board. It is also amazing that a college promoting itself as ARP and tirelessly cultivating funding from the ARP Church that ARPs are hard to find on both the faculty and in the student body. And why are they so wont not to become ARPs, but they are so ready to receive ARP money?

What is wrong with us? What malady do we ARPs have? Why are we so enthralled with EC&GSR? Why do we cling to a school where we are detested? Why are we so wont to fund the salaries of those who reject what we believe? Frankly, why do we help pay the salaries of people who reject the Jesus of the Bible we proclaim? What is wrong with us?

These are my thoughts,

Charles W. Wilson

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  1. Bill Henry says:

    I am an ARP church member and have tithed to my church for an extended period. After all the furor about Erskine as publicized well by the voluminous information I have received from Dr. Wilson, I have decided that I will no longer allow ANY of my tithe to go to Erskine College or any of its ministries. I have instructed my church of my decision, and they have come up with a way to ensure to my satisfaction that ZERO percent of my tithe will be allocated or paid to Erskine or its ministries.

    Perhaps others might like to react to Erskine’s compromise in education in a similar manner.

     
    • Sej Harman says:

      Bill Henry, PLEASE read some other opinions in addition to Chuck Wilson’s. There are several sides here, and his is biased, as he acknowledges. Erskine (or any college, for that matter) is NOT a monolithic institution; it should not be producing cookie cutter Christians, but should be tolerant of many thoughts, explorations–doubts, even–of various professing Christians, not just ARPs. ARPs espouse “the elect” and their relationship, through the priesthood of believers, to God. It’s really an individual thing, and no one should be DICTATING what anyone believes. Erskine helps students develop and sustain personal relationships with God, but should not mandate or restrict personal beliefs. People come to Christ through belief and grace, not through edict and fiat. I’m just sayin’….

       
      • Dear Mr. Sej Harman,

        Thank you for your participation on ARPTalk.

        Erskine is still an institution of the ARP Church. The documents tasking Erskine’s mission are distinctively evangelical Christian. Erskine administrators and board members make a great show at meetings of General Synod assuring ARPs they believe what ARPs believe and are implementing and upholding our belief system.

        What ARPs believe is not a mystery; nor are we anti-intellectuals in matters pertaining to science. We do not object to the teaching of the Darwinian or post-Darwinian theories of creation. We object to Mrs. Edward’s refusal to present the case for biblical creationism and Intelligent Design as competing “theories.” Now, the problem for Mrs. Edwards is she teaches at an ARP college, the documents of the ARP Church affirm not Intelligent Design but biblical creationism, and she has publicly written she rejects both biblical creationism and Intelligent Design as “theories” and affirms a form naturalistic evolution as the scientific “theory” to be received and believed by all. Furthermore, her attitude is what the ARP Church believes be damned!

        Now, Mr. Harman, do you really expect Mr. Henry, me, and other ARPs to fund this sort of behavior at Erskine? Well, in the past we have. No more!! You are welcome to it! I don’t have to pay people to cuss and disrespect what I believe; I can get it free!

        Regards,

        Chuck Wilson
        ARPTalk

         
    • Dear Mr. Bill Henry,

      Thank you for your thoughts.

      Regards,

      Chuck Wilson
      ARPTalk

       

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