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Archive for the ‘Southern Baptist Theological Seminary’ Category

As noted here in a couple of previous posts, I am an alumnus of Louisiana College and a native of Alexandria. That being said, with the plethora of other issues on my plate, I had no plans to make any further comment on the situation at LC. However, it has come to my attention that an article has been published in the Baptist Message that reportedly focuses exclusively on Calvinism as being the source of the problems at LC. (One must pay to read the article in full, and I’m not a paying subscriber.)

No doubt Calvinism is a significant issue in the Louisiana Baptist Convention and it was the proximate cause for the latest controversy that has  resulted in LC once again appearing in the headlines of the local media and beyond. That being said, I wonder if those of you who are concerned about a perceived undue Calvinistic influence at LC could answer some questions for me.

As Dr. Aguillard noted in his statement regarding Calvinism and LC, he was chosen in part because he is not a Calvinist. As many of you know, another leading candidate for President at that time is a Calvinist and many on the Board of Trustees at that time did not want to see a strong Calvinistic influence at LC. Why then has Dr. Aguillard (until now) aided and abetted the Calvinistic influence at LC since 2005?  Since the liberals (or “moderates”) left the religion/theology department, (and I had long thought that that needed to happen) I’m not sure if there has ever been a time in which the majority of the full time Biblical Studies faculty have not been Calvinistic. If that is a bit of an overstatement, it certainly seems to me that there has always been a high percentage of Calvinists on the faculty since Dr. Aguillard assumed office and new faculty began to be appointed to fill vacancies in that department. Given their educational background and other factors, everybody knew or should have known that these men were Calvinists. Why is this only now becoming an issue? Are there no non-Calvinist faculty who could have been brought in instead? If a football coach is directed not to bring in certain kinds of players and he repeatedly does it anyway, what should be the result? If LC has indeed become “Geneva on the Red” as some Louisiana Baptists have alleged, who ultimately is to blame for this development?

Moreover, why was a Oneness Pentecostal on the LC faculty for several years? He was not on the religion faculty but he hosted a campus radio program that addressed spiritual topics and thus had a spiritual influence on the students. Getting rid of liberals and replacing them with those who are associated with heretical ministries isn’t quite the kind of change I can believe in. That’s the case for me even if it has only happened once. In addition, the Oneness group Phillips Craig and Dean performed at LC in 2005 (also on Dr. Aguillard’s watch) and ordained Oneness minister Randy Phillips reportedly spoke in chapel.  This cooperation with Oneness Pentecostals calls into question the level of commitment to the stated goal of returning LC to its Biblical and Baptist roots. Would M.E. Dodd or Edwin O. Ware have approved of such? Are we to infer from this that having a faculty member who is affiliated with a non-Trinitarian ministry and who had a spiritual influence on the campus is not seen as a serious issue by Louisiana Baptists?  I can assure you that some impressionable students as well as others will draw that conclusion, sadly.  This too was no secret as the man in question had a regular column in the Town Talk that noted his affiliation with a Pineville congregation that is affiliated with the United Pentecostals. I wonder what other involvement (especially with regard to spiritual influence) these non-evangelicals and non-Trinitarians have had at Louisiana College since 2005. The fact that they are not in the SBC aside, do any of you  believe that Oneness Pentecostal theology and practice is less problematic than that of Calvinistic Baptists?

While a significant Calvinist presence is naturally an issue at Louisiana College in a state where the convention is overwhelmingly non-Calvinist, it seems to me that there are more pressing issues with regard to the core curriculum, infrastructure, accreditation, etc. While the Christian Studies division is of obvious concern to pastors and those with an interest in what kind of religious teaching is going on there, the majority of students are not in that program. For years LC has had a quality nursing program and has also done very well in having students accepted to professional schools such as medical school and law school.  A good many students are likely to leave if the cloud of fear and uncertainty over LC doesn’t clear soon.

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Yesterday Boyce College, the undergraduate college at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, hosted a discussion on N.T. Wright’s forthcoming book, Justification: God’s Plan & Paul’s Vision, which is largely a response to John Piper’s The Future of Justification.  Denny Burk, who moderated the forum, posted about it here.

I spent about three years in conservative confessional Presbyterianism, and this justification controversy was raging at its hottest at that time.  During that period, (the middle part of this decade) practically every major confessional Reformed and Presbyterian denomination in the USA as well as most related seminaries denounced this teaching along with the related Federal Vision teaching that at least to some degree sought to apply some of the purported insights of the New Perspective to Presbyterian and Reformed churches.  A related justification controversy had erupted in the late 1970’s with the teaching of former Westminster Theological Seminary professor Norman Shepherd, ultimately resulting in his departure from WTS.

I find that this issue generally isn’t on the radar screen for most Baptists, whether Southern Baptist or not.  But it seems that a number of seminarians and others are becoming enamored with at least some aspects of Wright’s teaching on justification and related issues.  Of course, the blogosphere isn’t necessarily an accurate gauge of what’s going on, but I do have to confess to being somewhat concerned with the number of people who have expressed that they would have preferred to have seen “both sides represented” or a desire for “equal time” at the Boyce Forum.  In my opinion, Wright’s views lend themselves much more readily to a hypercovenantalist paedobaptist context (as with the Federal Vision) or maybe something like the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, not to a confessional institution like Southern Seminary that is dedicated to proclaiming justification by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

There are many resources on the web and in print that address Wright and the New Perspective on Paul.  I’ve linked several pages that those who haven’t delved into this controversy might find helpful:

This program from Albert Mohler’s radio show addresses the New Perspective.  Dr. Mohler’s discussion with John Piper and Ligon Duncan on the issue begins about halfway through the show.  Dr. Duncan rightly identifies the NPP as having originated with liberal theologians.  It is now influencing some evangelicals through the influence of N.T. Wright.

Here’s an interview with John Piper about his book critiquing Wright.  You can find other pages on his website that address the New Perspective on Paul here, here, and here.

Piper’s book The Future of Justification:  A Response to N.T. Wright can also be downloaded in its entirety for free from his website here.

Here are some pertinent articles by John MacArthur:
http://www.gty.org/Resources/articles/1393
http://www.gty.org/Resources/articles/22

Here is a three part series by Pastor Gary Gilley, who has also written some helpful works on the seeker sensitive movement:
Part 1
Part 2 (Good information here on how the NPP serves Wright’s ecumenical and social agenda, which includes ecumenism (unity) with Rome.)
Part 3

Dr. James Galyon has addressed Wright and the New Perspective in the article Retreating to Rome: The New Battle Over Justification.  The article interacts with others who are in sympathy with Wright’s views as well, particularly in Presbyterian and Reformed circles in which a related movement known as the Federal Vision arose about 6 or 7 years ago.

In 2005, The Master’s Seminary held a Faculty Lecture series on the New Perspective which consists of 4 lectures.  You can download the lectures by visiting this page and scrolling down to the lectures dated 1/1/2005.

Here’s a helpful article on the New Perspective from Theopedia.

Many more resources are linked here.

Douglas Wilson, who is in the Federal Vision camp referenced above, has nevertheless been critical of aspects of Wright’s teaching on justification (and imputation specifically) in recent years, including Wright’s response to John Piper.  Here’s a link to his blog posts on the topic of N.T. Wrights and Wrongs.

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