Mar 16, 2014 | Comments 9
Is it time for a new seal and motto for Erskine Theological Seminary? Below is a copy of the present seal and motto:
I like this seal and motto. I particularly like the motto: “For Christ and His Church.” Its ring strikes a chord with my heart. It declares Erskine Theological Seminary is “a gospel enterprise.” How I wish Erskine Seminary were “For Christ and His Church” – especially, the ARP Church which gave the seminary life, financially supports the seminary, and supposedly owns the seminary. If only Erskine Seminary were the reality Dr. Mark Ross projects in his Erskine video appearance: “a gospel enterprise.” Indeed, “gospel enterprise” rings rich in gospel faithfulness and gospel longing for converted and transformed lives for Christ.
As reported in ARPTalk(92), once again, Erskine Seminary administrators have matriculated non-Christian clerics in the DMin program for Army chaplains. In the past, this has also occurred in the regular DMin program. This time, we have a Buddhist and a Mormon student at Erskine Seminary. Previously, we have seen Jewish, Mormon, Muslim, and Unitarian clerics enrolled. Never mind that Erskine is self-described as Christian! Never mind that Erskine is self-described as evangelical! Never mind that Erskine is self-described as Reformed. Never mind that Erskine is self-described as “a gospel enterprise.” Never mind that Erskine is self-described as “the seminary of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church.” And never mind that, at the 2012 meeting of General Synod, the Rev. Ray Cameron, then Chairman of the board’s Seminary Committee, apologized for this offense and promised it would not happen again at Erskine Seminary. He said it was a fluke, an oversight. Well, it has happened again, and it only took two years for the seminary administrators to forget the sting of the embarrassment. However, this time it is not a fluke or oversight. It was done on purpose for the sake of ministering to fifteen (15) Baptist chaplains.
At the Spring meeting of the ARP Church’s Second Presbytery, the Dean of Erskine Seminary, Dr. Jim Meek, made a number of interesting statements. He repeatedly contended that Erskine Seminary is “your seminary,” and “the seminary of the ARP Church.” He also stated he made the decision to enroll non-Christian clerics. He insisted he did so for ministry reasons rather than for the Army’s $300,000 a year in tuition money – he wanted to minister to the fifteen Baptist and the other Christian chaplains in the program.
As Meek explained it, the presence of non-Christian clerics enrolled in the Erskine DMin program is the fault of the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) and the Army – not decisions by administrators at Erskine Seminary. First, ATS has modified regulations for enrollment. Formerly, Erskine Seminary’s regulations (as determined by ATS’ regulations) excluded individuals from the DMin program who did not have the MDiv or its equivalent – thereby excluding most non-Christian clerics for they would not have an MDiv degree. Since the changes by ATS, it seems special deference is now given to non-Christian clergy, and non-Christian clerics are now allowed into DMin programs if they have a master’s degree of some kind. Second, since the implementation of the new ATS regulations, the Army can now require Erskine Seminary to accept all chaplains the Army sends. And, according to Dr. Meek, if Erskine is to minister to the Christian chaplains the Army sends, he must matriculate the non-Christians as well. I suppose this is done in order to accomplish the mission of Erskine as “a gospel enterprise.” But I wonder what the explanation would be if the numbers were reversed – far more non-Christian than Christian chaplains!?!
Meek argued the training of non-Christian chaplains at Erskine Seminary equips them to better serve Christian soldiers. And perhaps hoping the assembled presbyters would not notice the suspension of logic, he also said, “We are training men and women first and foremost for the church . . . our primary focus is on the ARP Church.” Indeed, the logic does not work, does it? This does not embrace the imperial and exclusive claims of the witness of Jesus in John 14:6 or the apostolic witness of Acts 4:12. Nor does this embrace the stated witness of the ARP Church which declares Jesus is the only Savior of sinners. And Dr. Meek claims to represent the ARP Church!?!
To put the matter baldly, the fact is the tithes and offerings of faithful ARPs are now being used to train non-Christian religious professionals to advance their careers, to increase their salaries in the Army, and to equip them to undermine the cause of “Christ and His church.” How is this “a gospel enterprise?” Frankly, I find Meek’s asserting he did not do it for the money to be disingenuous. We now know the seminary is running a $650,000 deficit for this year. That is, if I correctly understand what Meek and others are saying, from the draw on the endowment at budget planning and to the draw on the endowment in order to cover the deficit, the total draw on the endowment for this year exceeds ten percent (10%). If the seminary did not have the contract with the Army, add another $300,000 draw from the endowment and then the draw drifts north of fifteen percent (15%). But Dr. Meek can easily prove the Editor of ARPTalk wrong. Since it is “not about the money,” Dr. Meek should be able to reverse his decision immediately. Or is it really “about the money,” after all?
By the way, there was something forgotten in the discussion on requirements for the DMin program. Is not Erskine Seminary allowed to establish its own academic standards and requirements? According to the catalog, the MDiv or the equivalent is required for the Erskine DMin program. Like Obama suspending the requirements for Obamacare, it seems the seminary’s requirements are not the requirements for all.
Dr. Meek also declared to Second Presbytery that Erskine Seminary is “committed to the inerrancy of Scripture in the original autographs.” Has Dr. Meek forgotten about the presence of Dr. Richard Burnett, Professor of Systematic Theology at ETS? Apparently not, because the latest issue of Inside Erskine contains a notice of the recent publication of the Westminster Handbook to Karl Barth, which is edited and partially authored by Burnett (http://www.wjkbooks.com/Products/0664225306/the-westminster-handbook-to-karl-barth.aspx). Meek knows Burnett is not only a Barth scholar but also a passionate proponent of Barth’s heretical view on Scripture. Not only does Burnett reject the ARP Church’s view of inerrancy in the original autographs, he has PUBLICLY MOCKED what we believe (http://www.arptalk.org/2010/04/25/extra-inerrancy-the-interminably-long-vs-the-concise/). So how, the Editor asks, is Erskine Seminary “committed to the inerrancy of Scripture in the original autographs” when a FULL professor of Theology openly ridicules that very doctrine?
But congratulations are due to Dr. Burnett. His new book takes only 272 pages to introduce the world to Karl Barth, whose Church Dogmatics is only about 10,000 pages. Mr. Cliff Smith, the publicity guru at Erskine, must be very proud of Dr. Burnett’s accomplishment. (I would not have publicly acknowledged the publication.) But at Erskine, never mind that Burnett’s theological understanding rejects inerrancy. Never mind that Burnett’s presence at Erskine Seminary compromises the seminary’s claim to be evangelical. (And the seminary of the ARP Church must now be the laughingstock of the evangelical and Reformed world of seminaries!) Never mind that John Carson, Randy Ruble, Neely Gaston, and David Norman’s shenanigans, in hiring Burnett, in granting tenure to him, and in keeping him the past ten years, have created a conflagration in the ARP Church which is still burning.
At this point, let us not embrace wishful thinking, the reification of things as we might wish them to be; rather, let us embrace reality. The ARP Church affirms the inerrancy of the Scriptures. Karl Barth denied the inerrancy of the Scriptures. One of the three Systematic Theology professors at Erskine Seminary is a confirmed Barthian. He is publicly opposed to the theological position of the ARP Church on the doctrine of the Bible. No presbytery in the ARP Church will receive him as a minister. In a rational world, how is it possible the seminary of the ARP Church has a theology professor opposing its theological standards in the classroom? No wonder evangelicals who are planning careers in ministry choose seminaries other than Erskine Seminary for their theological education. I would choose a seminary other than Erskine!
In Hosea, the sinful and apostate people of God are described as sliding “back as a backsliding heifer” and “as an heifer that is taught, and loveth to tread out the corn” (Hosea 4:16 and 10:11). Well, the flavor of what Erskine Seminary has become is certainly caught by Hosea’s words.
And do not forget this: Erskine Seminary which is self-described as a Christian seminary opens its doors to train non-Christian clerics in its DMin program, and thereby they advance their careers and salaries as chaplains in the US Army. That is, in the name of Jesus, the professors at Erskine Seminary are equipping professional non-Christian clerics to do their jobs better in undermining the cause of the seal and motto of Erskine Seminary, “For Christ and His Church.” And let us just admit this is because of the $300,000 a year the Army pays in tuition. No wonder the classrooms at the seminary are empty and the seminary is running a $650,000 deficit this year. Could it be the judgment of God has fallen on Erskine Seminary?
Well, I think it is time for a new seal and motto for Erskine Theological Seminary. May I suggest the one below for consideration by the seminary’s administration and the board’s Seminary Committee? I think it appropriately reflects the appalling thing Erskine Seminary has become.
For Christ and the Anti-Christs too
These are my thoughts,
Charles W. Wilson
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