August 19, 2013

How to Spot a Liberal Seminary

by Clint Archer

Airport security seems to have surrendered common sense as a weapon in the war against terror. In a desperate attempt to appear politically correct and unbiased toward Arab Muslims, the TSA eschews profiling techniques. Profiling is when a person is singled out based on certain traits that they have in common with previous terrorist attacks. For example, the 9/11 bombers were all young, single, Arab, Muslim, males.

sneaky terroristThe lack of profiling begets some silly scenarios, as when a soldier traveling with his platoon in full uniform had his nail clippers confiscated…but not his gun. Or, the case in February 2011, when Alaska State Representative, Sharon Cissna refused to allow the TSA to inspect the scars of her mastectomy surgery. She was barred from boarding the plane because common sense might look like bias, even though it is an undisputed fact that no lady’s prosthetic breast (or nail clippers for that matter) have ever been used in any assault on land, air, or sea.

On the other hand, if profiling had been allowed, perhaps they would have prevented what happened on Northwest Airlines flight 253 on Christmas Eve 2010 when Umar Farouk Abdul-mutal-lab, a 23 year told, single, Muslim  male, who paid cash for a one-way ticket, and checked no luggage, cruised through airport security without any hassles. But when the plane was in flight, he promptly activated the explosives stashed in his underwear. Fortunately, instead of exploding, his underwear just caught on fire. Three passengers incapacitated him (while, as I imagine, children nearby chanted “Liar, liar…”).

Sometimes just a smidgen of common sense is needed to know that if it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck… it might just be a duck.hunter spotting

When evaluating a seminary on the spectrum of conservative to liberal, right to left, no one can know everything about all seminaries. So, here is a little toolkit of implements with which to diagnostically delve around in their doctrinal statement.

Unearthing the truth may take some CSI inspired sleuthing on your part. Some seminaries, who covet the sobriquet “conservative” without earning it, may surreptitiously conceal what they really teach for the sake of recruitment.

The clues to discover the species of poultry you are hunting for are to be found nesting in passages that have contentious interpretive conundrums with both a conservative and liberal solution. If a seminary’s faculty consistently falls on the side of the more liberal views, then that is a quacking sound which belies the presence of a duck. Let the hunt begin…

Inspiration and Inerrancy of Scripture

If the seminary does not hold to a belief that the whole Bible is plenary and verbally accurate (i.e. as a whole and in its parts), then it has no business claiming to be conservative.

To be clear, inerrant means there are no mistakes in the original text (“autographa”) at all. This includes accuracy in the details of history, geography, science, astronomy, and any other incidental details mentioned. God does not have a speech impediment. Yes, He used language, and humans within their culture, with their vocabulary, and their styles; but He used them to produce an end-product that He signs His name on as its Author. The Bible is as true as God’s character and power are able to make it—which is completely true, in the conservative view.

So how do you know if the seminary actually believes and teaches this? Here are four diagnostic questions to ask…

Duck hunting1. Do they train women for pastoral, preaching ministry?

Note that I did not simply ask “Do they admit women to the seminary?” A seminary has every right, according to Scripture, to equip women for a plethora of ministries, including preaching and teaching to women and children, writing theological books and articles, and many other careers that would require the highest level of theological training. But if a seminary trains women for the purpose of becoming pastors of churches, meaning they would “teach and hold authority over men” (contra 1 Tim 2:12 and 1 Cor 14:34-35), then that belies that the seminary holds a deficient view of the authority of Scripture. It shows that the hermeneutic they employ to interpret the Bible is not faithful to the intention of the original writers (or is at least inconsistent). They are more concerned about recruitment and/or cultural pressure, than they are about being faithful to the word, in season and out.

2. What do they teach on creation?

Another telltale symptom that a seminary is trying to blend in with secular academia is what they teach about creation. They want to avoid “embarrassingly literal” interpretations of the Bible. The earth, by the calculations of the genealogies in Scripture is between 6,000 and 10,000 years old. A seminary that is disinterested in pleasing the world at the expense of displeasing God, has no problem affirming that view. If macro-evolution has even an iota of truth in it, then there must have been death before the Fall, (contra Rom 5:12). When a seminary wants to integrate the theory of evolution into their syllabus, it means they are loosening their grip on faithful interpretation and trying to woo unrequited secular acceptance.

3. Did Matthew or Mark write first?

This is another subtle, but critical signal of encroaching liberalism. All external evidence points to the Gospel According to Matthew was written before Mark or Luke wrote their accounts. This may not seem like a hill to get wounded on, but the only reason to assert that Mark wrote his gospel before Matthew is because “evolutionary theory” applied to the Bible allows that the more complex must necessarily come from the simpler, and assumes that the Evangelists cut-and-paste from each other instead of being guided by the Spirit to compose their accounts (2 Pet 1:21). Since Mark’s account is briefer, and most of his contents are also to be found in Matthew and Luke’s records, then the theory insists that Matthew and Luke were not led by the Spirit to write their accounts, but poached the bulk from Mark. This is illogical when you consider that Matthew was an intimate eye-witness as one of the twelve apostles.

The fact that Mark and Matthew have similar content (in fact identical wording in places) is because it is the same Holy Spirit that inspired both accounts. Any seminary that is uncomfortable with that admission is not as committed to the doctrine of inspiration as they need to be.

4. Who wrote the Pentateuch?

The equivalent Old Testament litmus test for a belief in inerrancy is Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. The Bible avers explicitly that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible. Not only did Moses claim that, but Jesus and the New Testament writers reaffirmed that claim unequivocally. There is no external evidence to suggest otherwise; but a typical liberal approach sees four different styles of writing in the book as indicative of four separate authors (or “redactors” as they are sometimes known, meaning they may have simply edited and embellished the testimony of Moses). This is called, in liberal parlance, the JEPD theory. Each letter stands for the nickname given to the four  theoretical redactors. This too is cow-towing liberalism and betrays a paltry view of inspiration.

disguised duck


This list isn’t exhaustive, but I hope it’s a helpful start. You don’t want to find yourself studying at a seminary that will systematically un-equip you for the ministry.
Irrespective of what the school says it believes, a liberal seminary can be spotted a mile away if they question Scripture, train women to be pastors, entertain evolution, hold to Markan priority, and/or teach the JEPD redaction theory as opposed to Mosaic authorship.

Being called conservative has gone from a slight to a compliment. Seminaries covet that sobriquet.

But no matter how it dresses up, if it quacks like a duck, guess what it is.


Clint Archer

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Clint has been the pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church since 2005. He lives in Durban, South Africa with his wife and four kids.
  • Andrew

    Shouldn’t ‘show love for one another’ be #1 in your list? I assume that you didn’t include it because many who hold to a ‘conservative’ doctrine of Scripture do not exhibit Christlike love. That is why I think the conservative/liberal categories are simply too low of a standard to be of any real use in biblical discernment. Said another way, the doctrine of Scripture you propound is a necessary but not a sufficient condition to produce what the Scriptures say God is interested in. In regards to your #3, could you point me to a book/article(s) where a good biblical case is made for Matthew being written first? Canonical order is the typical argument I hear, but this is not really an argument from the text itself. When I studied this issue in depth some years ago, the details of the inspired texts themselves convinced me of Markan priority. I hear beneath your statements that if one gospel author drew from another it somehow means that the Spirit was not at work – and I’m not sure why one would draw that conclusion? I think we actually lose something if we go against Markan priority, namely the resources of redaction criticism. Thanks for reading my long comment!

    • I wouldn’t put “show love for one another” on a list of symptoms by which to diagnose liberalism– liberals can love one another as much as conservatives do. I’m not calling them meanies, I’m calling them liberals.
      There a zillion other aspects a seminary needs to address “to produce what the Scriptures say God is interested in.” These are certainly not the most important aspects of theology or ministry; they are just yellow flags of warning for a prospective student to follow-up on, to help discern what the seminary actually teaches. As for books, “The Jesus Crisis” by F. David Farnell et al. will settle it in your mind once for all. Thanks for chiming in.

      • Just wanted to make The Jesus Crisis easy to get a hold of. You can get it here.

        It’s an absolutely excellent book on the inherent unfaithfulness of the historical-critical method, and I’d recommend it for any student of New Testament / Biblical Studies.

        • Thanks Mike!

        • Andrew

          As for making ‘love one another’ #1 on your list – I guess I’m questioning the value of ‘diagnosing liberalism’! On the basis of 1 Timothy 1:5, if ‘liberals’ can love each other just as well as ‘conservatives’, then these labels have no connection to apostolic doctrine. The flow of 1 John 4 comes to mind: holding right doctrine (‘test the spirits’) leads to fellowship characterized by love. If the seminary is cold in its relational atmosphere, there’s a doctrinal problem (and in my view, it is probably not related to the synoptic issue!). // Thanks for the recommended book – in the spirit of Prov 18.17 I will try to give it a look at some point in the future. In Peter M. Head’s book on the issue he shows that many NT scholars in the UK were decidedly opposed to the influence of German higher criticism but that markan priority made inroads through rigorous study of the synoptics themselves. As commenters below have pointed out, it cannot be said that markan priority flows from higher/lower critical assumptions. // Thanks again for interacting – really enjoy and appreciate this blog!

          • Hey Andrew.

            On the basis of 1 Timothy 1:5, if ‘liberals’ can love each other just as well as ‘conservatives’, then these labels have no connection to apostolic doctrine.

            I think that’s a true statement, but I would dispute whether love for one another can be so thoroughly separated from sound doctrine. If love is to benefit one another, and our greatest benefit is to know and love Christ, the espousal of errant doctrine regarding Christ, His salvation, and His church would necessarily detract from our ability to portray an accurate picture of Him. It is a matter of degrees, and so it depends on which positions you take. But the positions outlined in Clint’s posts belie a deficient view of Scripture, which is detrimental to benefiting (loving) God’s people in the way we’re commanded.

            As commenters below have pointed out, it cannot be said that markan priority flows from higher/lower critical assumptions.

            I’m still not convinced that’s true. It may be that Markan priorists reject German liberalism as a system. But one of the points that The Jesus Crisis makes is that Matthean priority was virtually unquestioned on the basis of external evidence until Spinoza, who, on the basis of explicitly anti-supernaturalist and unbelieving presuppositions, introduced the discipline of “source/form criticism” as a way of getting people so concerned about the provenance of the text that they would never actually get down to studying the text itself. That view flourished under the enlightenment rationalism of the German liberals who also unashamedly disavowed inspiration and inerrancy. It made it easy to dismiss the more “embarrassing” aspects of Scripture as additions by the believing community subsequent to the writers of Scripture (who weren’t really the Apostles anyway, they say).

            Then, as conservatives tried to retain the integrity of Scripture while also seeking to maintain academic respectability, they adopted the methodology of the liberals while still coming to conservative conclusions. The only problem is that the methodology itself is inherently unbiblical, because it’s based on anti-supernaturalist presuppositions against inspiration and inerrancy. The aim is noble: “Let’s go ahead and suppose that inspiration isn’t true and we had to turn to historiography to substantiate our research. Well the Bible passes muster on even on those grounds too!” But the Lord doesn’t call us to play by the rules of the academy and the skeptic. He announces, “I am who I am,” and demands faith and obedience in His sufficient and clearly revealed Word. But since the “conservatives” engaged in this way, there were some holdovers of the liberals’ conclusions based on their presuppositions. The argument is that Markan priority is one of those.

            And it seems that Matt was responding at the same time as I was, so he’s probably filled in some gaps as well. Anyway, I hope that’s helpful, but I would still recommend reading The Jesus Crisis if you were able to find the time.

    • Helen Goh

      Is this a joke? Tongue-in-cheek? Especially conservatives not showing Christ-like love!

  • LT

    So Matthean priority (a decidedly non-exegetical question) fits on the same level with complementarianism, creationism, and Mosaic authorship? That’s gonna need some more work to defend it, isn’t it?

    • Dan L.

      Did he say they were on the same level?

    • Yeah, it’s probably not on the same level. But it’s a clue. It helps a prospective student know that its a question to pursue before signing up. Usually, but not always, holding to a Markan priority is an indication of adherence to a system of lower criticism that favors liberal redaction views. So Markan priority is not a deal breaker, just a yellow falg for follow-up.

    • I think it could very well be argued to be at the “same level,” because the affirmation of Markan priority over Matthew indicates another problem… which is the general belief that Mark, on the basis that it’s the shortest book, was the Gospel written first before the other Synoptics (Matthew and Luke). Affirming Markan priority would then argue that Matthew and Luke exaggerated and embellished Mark’s writings. That being said, we can begin to see the very real problems we would have with that. We would either have to say, since Matthew and Luke are inspired, that either God exaggerated the accounts, OR we would have to redefine Biblical inerrancy… which is what many so-called “conservative” scholars have done. I would refer back to the book Clint and Mike mentioned, “The Jesus Crisis” by Drs. Farnell and Thomas. Hope that helps and thanks for a really helpful post Clint!

      • Thanks Matt.

      • Andrew

        Matt, I’m afraid you’ve inadequately represented an argument for markan priority here – I don’t know anyone who holds to markan priority based on the length of the gospels.

        • Hill, Carson, Moo, Morris, Martin, and France all do. Generally, Markan priority is held mainly based on the false assumption of the hypothesized false document called “Q” known as the “Two Source Theory” (there’s also a 4th). But there is no document “Q,” it was made up. Matthew and Luke were thus written in dependance of Mark. This is direct contradiction to the early church fathers – Papias, Tertullian, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Eusebius, and Augustine. Rationalistic thinking largely contributed to the rejection of the traditional view, taking a developmental view of nature and history. Spinoza, a rationalist and pantheist, is considered the father of modern historical criticism, which he developed “as a weapon to destroy or at least discredit the traditional metaphysics of Christianity and Judaism” (Dungan, “History of the Synoptic Problem.”). This all led to the development of literary-dependance hypothesis, largely developed by J.J. Griesbach, a Neologian. He was also most influenced in Pietism, Rationalism, and Romanticism – which Griesbach admits himself. It was Griesbach who contended that Matthew and Luke were used by Mark in 1830. I guess I could go on, but it’s probably not very helpful. The question at hand, is “Why would we affirm Markan priority?” It all began with the presumption of a made up document to support their theories inspired by Friedrich Schleiermacher.

  • pallu

    It’s amazing as how “old earth” is often interpreted as supporting evolution. No, no, no, a million times NO. Dedicated, Bible-believing Christians who accept evidence for and thus believe in an old earth do not necessarily believe in macro-evolution. Please don’t tie the two together.
    About Mark? As a group we studied Mark in details for two years. When it was written was never asked even though it was put forward in the initial presentation. What is written was thoroughly discussed and we were richly blessed by that.

    • Thanks for your input. Of course, God created the world with age (as He did with Adam). Otherwise we’d be populating a ball of lava…or something.

      • A lot of strawmen in this article. A lot… You’ve contributed some really good articles before, but not this one.

        God created with age, according to your interpretation “of course”. There are many, MANY conservative evangelicals who believe in an old earth with a clear Biblical basis for believing so. Instead of buying the bill of goods Ken Ham and other militant YEC’s are selling (equating belief in a young earth with inerrancy and even salvation), it’d be better to actually converse with OEC’s who believe “the whole Bible is plenary and verbally accurate”. There are plenty out there, so you shouldn’t have to search very far. You might find the Biblical case convincing… and no, you wouldn’t be a liberal if you changed your mind on this.

        If this is your litmus test for what constitutes a conservative seminary, you’ve pretty much nailed it down to The Masters Seminary (shocker) and all Independent Fundamental Baptist schools. I’m not sure you want to be included with them, unless you’re willing to accept the full authority of the King James and ONLY the King James translation.

        Why not address same sex marriage or other key indicators of people ACTUALLY caving to culture? Those who believe in same sex marriage and “God blessed homosexual unions” take multiple passages and distort them to cave to THE culture issue of our time. Believing the universe is old based on a proper hermeneutic (interpreting the passage within it’s proper context) is not even close to forcing the Bible to say homosexuality is part of God’s plan for Christians. They’re not even on the same planet, much less the same ballpark.

        • Well brother, the purpose of the article was to help prospective seminary students spot a seminary who says it IS conservative, but isn’t. A seminary teaching same-sex marriage would be pretty easy to spot as unorhodox, right? Thanks for your input.

    • Lance G. Flood

      Pallu, if you believe in an old earth, how do you square the geneaology of Jesus in Luke? If you then believe in the gap theory, how do you explain death preceding the fall?

      • Yup, old eartheans have that rock/hard place challenge to think through. Thanks for articulating it.

  • Richard

    #2….”When a seminary wants to integrate the theory of evolution into their
    syllabus, it means they are loosening their grip on faithful
    interpretation and trying to woo unrequited secular acceptance.” I couldn’t agree more with this as long as “integrating the theory” means teaching it as authoritative truth – and I know you mean it that way. But integrating it to expose its fallacies both scriptural and scientific should definitely be included. Too often that’s not done very well – or at all – in the conservative approach. And that leaves one woefully ignorant in defending the issue against the onslaughts of the liberal / secular guns that permeate our society.

    • Right. That’s what I meant. Thanks for helping clarify.

  • Doc B

    Very useful article.

    I think you could add the ‘personhood of Adam and Eve’ to the second point (as they are at least theologically related). It seems to me that some will avoid the doctrine of creation as much as possible, but demonstrate their hidden agenda by refusing to acknowledge Adam and Eve as particular, historical persons.

    I think, properly distilled and defined, their view of hell could also be a very good indicator of where they stand theologically.

    • Thanks for those. Yeah, they would be telltale too.

  • brad

    Hey Clint!

    Where would seminaries like Westminster Theological Seminary and RTS fall in this? They seem very conservative and committed to the inerrancy and inspiration of Scripture but would fail some of your diagnostics.

    It seems like you are defending more of a fundamentalist position than conservative position.

    • That’s a good point. It used to be that conservative meant fundamentalist. Now you get liberal conservative and fundamentalist conservative. This article is simply meant to be a help, not a be-all-end-all of tests. I would still recommend WTS or RTS for those in the Reformed theological stream. But he more diagnostics they fail, the more I’d reconsider. Hope that helps.

  • Chris G.

    I thank God for my liberal friends. I’m glad that there are people who are courageous enough out there to butt heads with the establishment and tear down “conventional wisdom” that binds the hearts and minds of the masses. I mean, Jesus was this rabble-rousing scoundrel who went about his life undoing what religious sensibilities had spent centuries reinforcing. When Jesus met “conservative factions,” he repeatedly showed them that love and concern for other people was the most important way to glorify God. He repeatedly showed them that their beliefs and institutions were lacking when they became too dogmatic, too restrictive, and too exclusive.

    I thank God for my conservative friends. I’m glad that there are people who are courageous enough to respect all the good wisdom and practices that tradition has handed down to us. I’m glad that there are people out there who keep “progress” in check–making sure that, in spite of rapidly changing trends and fads, that the proverbial baby doesn’t get thrown out with the bathwater. When I read the gospels, I don’t see a Jesus who simply brings about chaos and disorder. I read about a Jesus who worked in accord with what the established God of Judaism had already laid in place. Jesus repeatedly points to God as the fixed reference for his ministry.

    We tend to use our religious and political world-views to bolster our sense of ego and mask our own insecurities. We tend to use our personal narratives in order to avoid our doubts and fears rather than confronting them. Unfortunately, this usually makes us pretty defensive. And I think this holds true regardless of where you fall on an arbitrary “spectrum.”

    Maybe we’re all a little wrong about God. For that matter, maybe we’re all a lot wrong about God. In truth, I hope that our God is so vast, so mind-blowing that our limited minds cannot contain God. I hope that our petty liberal/conservative squabbles are rendered pointless and futile against the glory of the God of the cosmos.

    I hope that God isn’t petty enough to smite or damn those people who might happen to be wrong about how life, in its present state, came to be. If God did use evolution to order creation, is God any less worthy of glory than if the earth were created in six days? If we happen to be wrong about God’s creative capacity, isn’t God powerful and mature enough to forgive our wrong belief? I mean, certainly, Clint, there are some errors in your own understanding of God (lest you claim to have mastered the inner-workings of the almighty, in which case, it seems there are more important things for you to be doing than blogging). Don’t you hope that God forgives you of your wrong belief? I mean, does a parent hold it against a child when the child cannot understand where babies come from? If God used evolution to create humanity, praise be to God. If the Genesis account is true to the letter, praise be to God. If God speaks through a woman minister or leader, praise be to God. If Mark’s gospel came first, praise be to God. If Matthew’s gospel came first, praise be to God. If Moses wrote the Pentateuch, praise be to God.

    Can God equip men and women to carry out the missio Dei even if their understanding is flawed? I should hope so, otherwise God’s kingdom would be empty. As for me, I am glad that there are many different perspectives. Maybe our disagreements are opportunities for “iron to sharpen iron.” Maybe our disagreements are opportunities for reconciliation (it seems that Jesus was keen on reconciling, after all). Maybe disagreements should not be met with ego and hostility, but with patience and loving-kindness. Maybe God doesn’t take sides like we do.

    Could it be, Clint, that the Holy Spirit moves in the lives of both liberal and conservative seminaries? Could it be that both have a seat at Christ’s table?

    If we can’t learn to even listen to fellow Christians, how on earth are we going to learn to listen and respond to those outside of Christianity?

    • Yeah, thanks Chris. Um, I think that you’re misjudging the implications of the post. No one is saying that a seminary who doesn’t teach conservative theological positions is populated by unbelievers; I’m just saying that if you are looking for a conservative seminary as opposed to a liberal one, these are some diagnostic issues to probe. Just one correction in your characterization of Jesus: He never ever questioned the Word of God. I’m all for challenging established beliefs–by appealing to Gods word (as Jesus did all the time). I am totally against challenging Gods word itself, which is what liberals are known for doing. Challenging the Bible’s voracity is the most distinctive characteristic of a liberal.

  • Tavis Bohlinger

    Hi Clint, thanks for the post above. It is helpful to clarify the differences in theological perspective as you do above. It would be helpful, however, if you could define the actual dividing line between your terminology of “conservative” and “liberal.” You seem to have lumped together everybody (and every seminary) that espouses the above views into the “liberal” camp. As a graduate of The Master’s Seminary (TMS), I can attest that the faculty at our very “conservative” institution make it a point to refine the student’s understanding of the terms. Instead of being “either-or,” we were taught that there is a spectrum. The spectrum ranges from extreme “liberal” on the left, to staunch fundamentalist “conservative” on the right. Now granted, there are two main categories on this spectrum, those being liberal and conservative. But the point our professors at TMS drove home was that there has to be solid grounds by which to call somebody (or something) liberal. It is a serious charge, and used without discretion in a polemical (hostile rhetorical manner can be destructive.

    Let me use myself as a case in point. As stated, I graduated TMS last May. I consider myself an evangelical. This Fall I begin PhD studies at Durham University under an evangelical supervisor (John Barclay), as well as taking the position of worship leader at an evangelical church in Durham. That’s quite a bit of “evangelical.” Yet, according to your criteria listed above, I should actually be calling myself a “liberal.” Why? Because
    1) I will be serving at a church which allows women to preach (occasionally) from the pulpit, and employs at least one women in a leadership position on staff;
    2) I hold to Markan priority over Matthew and Luke, although I believe this was a Spirit-led activity;
    3) I do not believe in evolution, mostly because the theory is unprovable, but I am still deciding whether Genesis 1-2 is poetry or prose, historically factual regarding the “days” or a poetic rendition of the creation account (notice that I said “creation”);
    4) I am in agreement with at least one of the faculty at TMS in holding to “inspired textual updating,” which states that, although Moses was likely the original author of the Torah, later editors made changes to the text for various reasons prior to canonization around 400BC, though none affected the meaning intended by both Moses and the Holy Spirit.

    So, my point is this. Your post I believe is made with every good intention of protection other young men going into ministry from being negatively affected by alternative theological positions than yours. But I want to stress to you, and your readers, that being “conservative” or “liberal” hinges on other issues than what you’ve described here. It’s unfortunately that you would use those terms, instead of the more accurate terms “left-leaning evangelical” or “fundamentalist evangelical.” Because as a faithful exegete of God’s Word, you yourself spend hours each week ensuring that you have been honest with the biblical text in front of you, so that your people will be properly informed about their God. Please ensure that you are doing the same when it comes to differences of theology in evangelicalism.

    • Michael

      I think the terms “biblical” and “unbiblical” would suffice in most of the cases above. Other than the Markan priority issue, Scripture is very clear on these matters. A seminary (or church) that puts a woman in the place of elder/pastor and allows her to teach men is an unbiblical seminary (or church). The same for the author of the Pentateuch and the Bible’s teaching on creation.

      For me, it’s more important to be biblical than it is to be evangelical, especially in today’s world where the term “evangelical” has almost lost it’s meaning (as Carl Trueman has shown in “The Real Scandal of the Evangelical Mind”.)

      • Tavis Bohlinger

        Unbiblical is a strong term to use in the case of female leadership. That that term is better reserved for activities that are clear violations of the Law of Christ (adultery, fornication, drunkeness, etc). It would be helpful to modify the terminology we use as evangelicals to fit each case as it comes to us. When we are talking about women in leadership, charismatic gifts, Markan priority, age of the earth, then it would benefit all parties if we strived to communicate our interpretations as clearly as possible, using terms that are appropriate to the issue. But to draw theological boundary lines by the terms “biblical” and “unbiblical” should be reserved for issues of absolute clarity in Scripture where the Gospel is at stake. Specifically I’m thinking of the deity of Christ, the Trinity, the personhood of the Holy Spirit, etc.

        • Tavis, as you know, brother, we went through TMS together. But I have to disagree with you, and strongly, on what we’ve learned here at TMS. I’m afraid you’re not representing our seminary well, nor our what our professors taught us. I know I can’t get into a debate with you on “scholasticism,” because I know you have a much sharper academic mind than I have. However, I also hold no reservation in saying women preaching in the church is “unbiblical” since it’s without question that Paul said so! How do you get around 1 Cor. 14:34 or 1 Tim. 2:12? To declare something biblical or unbiblical isn’t reserved exclusively for salvific issues. I’m not sure where you got that impression. “Unbiblical” is reserved for actively doing something Scripture clearly says NOT to do, or passively not doing so something Scripture clearly says TO do.

          Also, as to your previous response, how would you define a liberal? You may call me a fundamentalist (which I would detest), but I don’t think such a thing exists as a “left leaning fundamentalist.” Ultimately, the liberal no longer believes in the authority and clarity of Scripture, at whatever level that may be. Historical Criticism becomes the authority instead. Case in point… when you argued that you are a 6 day “creationist,” not because of the Genesis acct., but “mostly” because you think evolutionism is “unprovable.” What if it was “provable?” Gen. 1-2 may be prose, but you’ve also forgotten the hermeneutical rule we were taught, “when the common sense makes sense, seek no other sense!” I would also ask, if you are willing to disbelieve in the historical acct. in Genesis, would you also be willing to believe the historical accounts of Christ if history can “prove” them to be false? You would be left with nothing more than the mere “footprints” of Jesus.

          I think Clint Archer is the one representing what we’ve been taught at TMS and why I, and many others, have been trained here as well.

    • MMJ

      Hi Tavis,
      If you take the doubts you have about all that you have mentioned above with you, over there all that will simply happen is that your doubts will be affirmed. An environment like that, which casts doubt, will affirm your doubt. As Michael said below unbiblical and biblical does indeed suffice. -matthew

      • Tavis Bohlinger

        MMJ, you’ve just stated unequivocally that those two terms do “indeed suffice” regarding the issues in Clint’s post. Could you please elaborate, and if possible, substantiate that claim? Neither you nor Matt have offered any real definition of what it means to be “biblical” or “unbiblical,” just that those who disagree with Clint’s viewpoints (representing the fundamentalist stance) are justifiably deemed “unbiblical.” Also, would another way of stating those terms be “Christian” and “un-Christian”?

        • MMJ

          Tavis, you said that ” [using the term] unbiblical is a strong term to use in the case of female leadership”. Does the Bible permit a woman to be a pastor?

    • Tavis,

      I’m not sure I can adequately express in a blog comment thread how deeply sorrowful your comments make me. I want you to know that I have been, and will continue to pray for you as you make this transition to Durham, that the Lord will protect you from traveling further down the path which you have seemed to begin to take. I know you can’t see my face or hear the tone of my voice, but I want you to know that I mean these things sincerely, and not as mere rhetoric.

      But in coming to the substance of your comment, it seems to boil down to this assertion:

      “…being ‘conservative’ or ‘liberal’ hinges on other issues than what you’ve described here.”

      My question is: What is the authority by which we are to measure that claim? You chide Clint for what you count to be a failure to properly “exegete” the differences of theology when it comes to evangelicalism. But what is it that he is to exegete? Are their canons of definition for the liberal-conservative “spectrum,” as you call it? The answer is no; a case has to be made. And the case Clint is making in this post is that handling the Scriptures in the ways he’s outlined are good indicators of a liberal trajectory—signs that one does not respect God’s Word on its own terms. Therefore, those positions should be a cause for concern for students, like yourself even, when evaluating a seminary. Besides the assertion that I quoted above, your comments haven’t provided any grounds to question or refute that position. In fact, I think it’s only confirmed it.

      Your discomfort with what seem to be clearly-defined terms is also puzzling to me. To use the analogy Clint used, you seem to be saying something along the lines of, “It’s got webbed feet, it quacks, and I have sympathy with those who have feathers, but please don’t be so simple-minded as to call it a duck.” And your equivocation about terms like “unbiblical” to describe holding a position that is contrary to the teaching of Scripture is dumfounding. Something is “unbiblical” when it’s not what the Bible teaches. The Bible teaches that the earth was created in 6 literal days and that women are not to teach or have authority over a man, serving in the office of overseer/pastor/elder. You don’t have to believe those things, but if you don’t, you do have to live with being told you hold unbiblical positions.

      Finally, it is disingenuous and irresponsible of you to appeal to your instruction at TMS as justification for your views while at the same time openly disavowing so much of what that blessed institution and those dear men stand for. You speak about being a TMS-trained exegete and then espouse interpretations of various texts and key doctrinal issues that those who have trained you would openly repudiate. I know for a fact that your professors have warned you, along with the rest of us students, against the very positions you seem comfortable espousing and tolerating—and especially against the deficient view of Scripture that makes provision for such positions. I highly doubt they would be proud to own your comments and positions as a product of their instruction. Though of course I can’t speak for them, as a graduate of TMS myself, I am ashamed that you would associate the seminary with such errant teaching. And I hope it causes you, in the future, to think twice about using TMS as a shibboleth to legitimize such teaching.

      Now, this doesn’t mean that I think that every old-earth-creationist or egalitarian is an unbeliever—nor that a seminary that holds to Markan priority is a dead liberal institution like Princeton or Union Theological Seminary. There’s a difference between bad doctrine and heresy. But that
      difference doesn’t make bad doctrine less bad. Nor does it mean disagreement on such things amounts to nothing more than theoretical quibbles about esoteric abstractions. How one treats and handles the Scriptures on these areas speak volumes about his view of God’s Word. And that’s what Clint’s post is about.

      Comments closed.

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