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Monday, January 16, 2006

It's not Vegas, but...(Part 1 of 3)

Normal people who reside in California take weekend getaways to places like Las Vegas, or the Colorado River, or perhaps a beachside resort. But not me. I take getaways to seminary conferences. Who needs R&R when I can be edified by some of the leading theological giants of our time?

OK, so visiting Wesminster Theological Seminary in California was, for this theology geek, like being a kid in a candy store. Meeting the authors of some of my favorite theological works was fascinating, and I could only wonder to myself "wow, these guys get paid to study the Bible and Reformed theology!"

On a more serious note, I was comforted knowing that the West Coast has a seminary that is so faithful to the Reformed tradition, and is churning out such solid pastors under their guidance. Hearing the professors speak was encouraging to this end. With the downward spirals of Calvin and Fuller Seminaries becoming more apparent, and even the slippery-slope compromises being made at normally-stalwart institutions like Reformed Theological Seminary (notice that they booked Tony Campolo for a lecture series?!), one begins to wonder if we should be creating Reformed seminaries with a pre-mil/pre-trib/dispie-like pessimism in expectation that all seminaries must, after their founding, follow an inevitable downhill trajectory into apostacy (or, if we're lucky, merely heresy), and that they all ought to be bulldozed after a century or so of their founding. Princeton, Calvin, and Fuller were taken by theological rot, so is there a 100-year shelf life we should observe before good seminaries spoil, and ought to be thrown out like so much fuzzed-over cheese? Hopefully not, so may God bless Westminster West.

My guess is that the little town I live in has a Reformed population of 1. That would be me. So, as you can imagine, I'm ecstatic anytime I'm around other Reformed believers, much less, surrounded by a whole crowd of Reformed brethren who are all theology geeks like me. The conference was sold out, and the bulk of the crowd were clearly laymen or elders, not pastors.

It was a joy to listen to Dr. Hywel Jones, with his deep Welsh accent, expound the Reformed doctrine of the sacraments. I must say, his lecture was one of the most illuminating I have ever heard on the topic. The doctrine of the Real Presence becomes most difficult to wiggle out of, exegetically and logically, after listening to him. Great stuff.

Dr. R. Scott Clark's talk also stood out. Westminster West, for good or ill, has taken an anti-Federal Vision stance, and Clark's presentation solidified this fact. I will be most interested in reading the faculty symposium on this issue, because Clark's polemic seemed to me to rely on uncharitably selective quotations of FV proponents in his lecture. He is convinced that the matter has become a matter of necessary church discipline, and called his audience toward this end. I'll be interested to see what becomes of it. If Clark's charges are right, then his response is justified. However, if the FV proponents disavow the interpretations imputed to their works, which I suspect will be the case, then I don't think the answer will be clear-cut. We will see.

I knew that I was going to attend Dr. Dennis Johnson's elective lecture, no matter what his topic was. He spoke about the preaching precepts exemplified in Acts, and I was not disappointed. I like his speaking style. He's the kind of guy I can see kicking a beer back with. Most notably, however, I noticed something about him during Clark's presentation. Sitting behind him, I noticed Dr. Johnson was taking notes. Not "I'm sorta being polite and taking notes while my colleagues are speaking", but detailed notes scrawled all over the lecture outline in his lap. "Huh," I thought to myself. This conference was not geared to academics or pastors, it was clearly geared toward laymen in content. But there Dr. Johnson was, still believing he had things to learn, even as a professor. And there I was, not taking notes at all.

I'll stop here for now and fill y'all in on the rest of the conference in the next blog post.

Category: Theoblogia


  • Hi David,

    Thanks for your post.

    WSC has indeed taken a stand against the Federal Vision.

    In case anyone is wondering whether the confessions really contradict the Federal Vision:

    This brief essay also introduces some of the issues:

    My conference lecture was a very condensed version of a much longer paper which is to be published in the Confessional Presbyterian sometime in '06.

    Some of the background for my comments about the degree to which may be found here:

    I realize that the FV fellows wish to be regarded as confessional, but so did Arminus and many wanted that argument to "go away." Fortunately, the Synod of Dort did not take such a liberal view of things. They understood that a conditional election etc is not good news.

    The FV writers (esp. Barach and Lusk) are quite explicit about their view that there is a conditional election and union with Christ.

    They are also explicit in their rejection of fundamental Reformed categories such as "merit" and the distinction between law and gospel.

    How many essential Reformed doctrines does one get to deny before one is no longer rightly considered Reformed and eligible to stand in a Reformed pulpit?

    Thanks for the good word.



    R. Scott Clark, DPhil.,
    Associate Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology
    Westminster Seminary California

    By Blogger R. Scott Clark, at 12:46 AM  

  • Dr. Scott,

    Thanks for stopping by our nook of the internet. You have a funny way of spending your Friday nights after 12 midnight !

    I appreciate the articles you linked us to, and am glad that Westminster is publishing the symposium. I'll keep an eye out for your paper in the Confessional Presbyterian as well. I've referred our readers to it before, but here is the Mississippi Valley Presbytery Report:'mississippi%20valley%20report%20presbytery'

    I've been reading the Knox colloquium on the Auburn fellas, and I share your concerns. The difficulty is that these folks will still formally uphold sola fide, so part of me wants to interpret them charitably, taking into account their different use of terminology and habitual unclarity. But they can only claim to be victims of chronic misinterpretation for so long (as they do in the MVP report).

    However, my brain can only handle so much cognitive dissonance before one has to say "OK, either clean up this mess and make yourself more clear or I have to conclude that you are denying points of the confessions at least in substance and by implication even if not formally."

    It is all too bad, too, since I have profited greatly from many of the Auburn guys' writings. They should not waste their talents on this strange project, and they otherwise have much to offer the Reformed community. Pity.

    Oh, and thanks to you and the rest of the faculty for the conference. I felt your lecture was indeed well-received, and deservedly so.

    By Blogger David Gadbois, at 3:06 PM  

  • sadly Tony Campolo has gone completely contemplative/emergent.

    By Blogger Danae Zenor, at 11:41 AM  

  • My guess is that the little town I live in has a Reformed population of 1. That would be me. So, as you can imagine, I'm ecstatic anytime I'm around other Reformed believers, much less, surrounded by a whole crowd of Reformed brethren who are all theology geeks like me.

    Hmm...the first thing that came to my mind when i read that was be careful in your zeal to associate with those of the Reformed theology camp...that you do not shun nor forsake fellowship with those believers who truly do love and follow their Lord and Savior Jesus Christ...but may not have a Reformed theological view on all things.

    I have come across those who were Calvinist...who completely tore down and shunned other believers who did not adhere to the full's sad, uncalled for..and frankly unbiblical to shun fellowship with other believers only for the reason that these other believers don't believe in "limited atonement" for example.

    Titus 3:9
    9But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.

    2 Timothy 2:24
    The Lord's bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged

    Now i'm not talking about those supposed "believers" who adhere to teachings that completely oppose the Gospel message and excuse sinful, godless lifestyles....but only points that differ in the "finer points of doctrine" which whether one believes in that doctrine or not will not affect the fact that they are saved, nor does it affect their relationship with the Lord.

    By Blogger Danae Zenor, at 11:49 AM  

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