Results tagged “Barth” from Reformation21 Blog

Van Til's Critique of Barth's Christology (Part 2)

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In the first post in this series, we gave consideration to Van Til's assessment of Barth's Christology. In this post we wish to examine Barth's own teaching on Christology. The key to understanding Barth's Christology is to understand where he places the act of the incarnation. To use Van Til's expression, Barth seems to place that act in Geschichte. So what is the nature of this Geschichte? At least in Barth's earlier thought, as Bruce McCormack has shown, this is the real history of God which stands over against the so-called "unreal" history of humanity.34

McCormack aptly describes this as the "tangent point" at which God's history meets our history, without becoming one with it. It is important at this point to set this idea against the backdrop of Barth's rejection of the higher critical approach of the liberal school. For Barth, God and his revelation cannot be handled or manipulated by man in his own fallen time. Therefore, revelation - and thus the incarnation - must be something that is quite independent of "our time." Trevor Hart explains:

Revelation...is an event...The habitual use of the noun form [i.e., "revelation"] tends inevitably to direct our thinking instead toward the abstract, and to suggest some commodity (textual, historical or whatever) which represents the abiding deposit of a prior act of 'revealing'...something which has, as it were, become an earthly commodity and been handed over into human custody and control, domesticated and packaged for responsible human use.35

Second, in CD III/1 Barth engages in a stimulating discussion of the relation between God's act of creation and the history of the covenant of grace. What he is concerned to do here is defend against the notion of a generic "god," an impersonal uncaused cause as you find in Thomas' five ways. At this point, Barth offers a very insightful alternative to Thomas with which Van Til would surely agree. In refusing to pit God as creator against God as redeemer, Barth sets forth a better way:

But at this point everything depends upon the fact that the One from whom the world comes and on whom it depends should not be "God" in the sense of this or that conception, but He who in the process of history reconciles the world to Himself in order to give to it, as its Redeemer, its new and eternal form. (CD III/1, 45).

To this sentiment a truly Protestant theologian can only express his assent. However, Barth goes one step further. He goes so far as to affirm the history of the covenant of grace as being prior to the act of creation. The history of the covenant of grace has a distinct precedence and pre-existence over creation. Our doctrine of creation,

equating the Creator with the Deliverer, tells us that the world too, the whole nexus of being and movement in which I exist, has no prior existence that there is absolutely nothing which can take precedence of the history of the divine covenant of grace (Idem).

From here Barth develops his argument to include the Trinity. Creation is an act of the triune God, and in particular the Father of the Lord Jesus Christ. Barth states:

Hence the proposition that God the Father is the Creator and God the Creator the Father can be defended only when we mean by "Father" the "Father with the Son and the Holy Spirit." (CD III/1, 49).

But who is the "Son" that is with the Father-Creator? For Barth, notice, it is not the self-contained ontological Son apart from human flesh, rather:

It is not without His Son but as the Father of Jesus Christ that God bears the name of Father in Scripture and the creed. Again, it is not without the Son but in Jesus Christ that according to Scripture and the creed He makes Himself known as the sovereign Lord of all things and the Creator (Idem).

So, since there is an incarnation in eternity, that must mean God has time - and if time, then history.36 "Eternity...is not in any way timeless...In this way it is the essence of God Himself...God is Himself eternity. Thus God Himself is temporal...God in His eternity is the beginning of time" (CD III/1, 67-8). It becomes increasingly clear that for Barth there is a time, or history, other than "our time." (read: Historie). And that other time is the time of Jesus Christ - the time of grace. Jesus Christ is this time of grace. And what is more, this time of grace is independent of our time:

In this way the time of grace, the time of Jesus Christ, is the center and perfect counterpart of the time of creation. Like it, and in contrast to 'our' empty time, it is fulfilled time (CD III/1, 75).37

Therefore the revelation of God in Jesus Christ does not occur in our time, in our history. Yet, and because of this, God's time of grace occurs in "full contemporaneity" (CD III/1, 74) and "simultaneously" (CD III/1, 75) with our time. Even so, our time never becomes itself revelation.

Finally, this whole conception must be set against the backdrop of Barth's earlier work in CD I/2 where he speaks about "God's time for us." This time is a third time (CD I/2, 47).38 The Christ event is its own time (CD I/2, 49). It is the time of Jesus Christ (CD I/2, 51). However, standing over against this third time is "our time." This world time is

without Christ, without revelation, a hard surface of secularity...It covers the years 1-30 like all others. It is world history in which, along with history of culture...there is also a history of religion and the Church. But there is certainly nothing that we can seriously call a history of "God's mighty acts" (CD I/2, 63).

But the "third time" is a time that God makes for us (CD I/2, 49). This is the time of revelation and incarnation.39  Barth sets forth three times: God's time, our time, and Gottes Zeit fur uns ("God's time for us"). It is this last time which is real time. And this time takes place in the incarnation - "the event of Jesus Christ" (CD I/2, 49). This time alone "is to be regarded as eternal time" (CD I/2, 50). This eternity is "pre-historical time" (ahistorischen Vorzeit). Yet - though it is pre-historical - it is not timeless time. Rather, it is a temporal reality (Idem; KD, 55). And it is here that "our time" is taken up and renewed:

...the time we mean when we say Jesus Christ is not to be confused with any other time. Just as man's existence became something new and different altogether, because God's Son assumed it and took it over into unity with his God-existence...so time, by becoming the time of Jesus Christ, although it belonged to our time, the lost time, became a different, a new time (CD I/2, 51).

This third time is God's act, or event, of revelation in Jesus Christ. It is important for us to note here, in support of the idea that this third time is not something which happens in calendar time, to cite Barth's original idea of the relation between this time of revelation and calendar-time history. He puts it this way:

To put it concretely, the statement "God reveals Himself" must signify that the fulfilled time is the time of the years 1-30. But it must not signify that the time of the years 1-30 is the fulfilled time. It must signify that revelation becomes history, but not that history becomes revelation. (Ibid., 58).

Now, no other statement is more important for understanding Barth's Christology than this one. Revelation - i.e., Jesus Christ - becomes history. Jesus Christ - in this act or event of God's time for us - becomes history by taking to himself our fallen time. However, our time, history, or calendar days can never be revelational.40 Revelation takes place transcendently, entirely removed from our fallen time. Our time has no capacity for revelation, history can in no way be the medium of revelation.

In this way, Barth's Christology represents a new and original reinterpretation of the tradition. And this is why his theological innovations were such a reversal of his day's dominate neo-Protestant theology. Nineteenth century theology was thoroughly informed by a doctrine of God's immanence. Liberalism's God was "trapped" or "stuck" in the earthly muck of human consciousness. Barth sought to release God from that trap and make him utterly and completely transcendent. Rather than viewing the incarnation as a process which occurs within the consciousness of man, or within the strictures of man's fallen history, Barth described the incarnation in terms of an objective event which occurred outside of "our time." The incarnation is a transcendent event.

In one fell swoop Barth has rejected both liberalism and Reformed orthodoxy, presenting us with a would-be via media. Even so, a commonality remains between liberalism and Barth: the incarnation did not happen in calendar-time history. Revelation may be historical, but history is not revelational.41 In other words, what Barth believes is an attempt at a via media is nothing of the sort. Rather, it is merely another modern option, with nothing but a formal nod to orthodoxy.

 

Conclusion

If what we have said above about Barth's thought is correct, then we must stand with Van Til in his fundamental contention: Barthianism is not simply a different expression of Christianity, but a different religion altogether. Or, to put the matter in the form of a question: is there any way to conceive of Barthianism and (Reformed) Christianity as friends? The answer must be Nein!

For this reason, we find the recent dismissals of Van Til's critique by current evangelical theologians somewhat troubling. What is perhaps even more disturbing is the fact that Barth's theology is being readily received today as being friendly toward Reformed orthodoxy. Whatever the reasons for this, it is time to once again exercise discernment, as Van Til did. In addition, we would do well to read Barth, carefully and closely as Van Til did, seeking to understand truly the deep structures of his thought and their implications for Christian doctrine and life. And when we have done that, we must stand in witness and testimony to the self-attesting Christ of Scripture.


*You can find the full set of footnotes for this post here.

Van Til's Critique of Barth's Christology (Part 1)

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In the recent resurgence of interest in the theology of Karl Barth--particularly among evangelicals1--theologians of no mean significance have opined on Cornelius Van Til's writings about the dialectical theologian. Van Til, according to some, offered an "absurd"2 and "inept analysis"3 of Barth's theology which "wielded a disproportionate influence"4 among evangelicals through his "tendentious"5 reading of the Church Dogmatics.6 Others have argued that Van Til's motive for critiquing Barth and Barthianism was "institutional." D.G. Hart, for example, argues that Van Til was motivated by a desire to justify Westminster Seminary's existence over against Princeton Seminary.7 But did Van Til really misfire so badly in his critique?

Van Til's Critique

In order to show the accuracy of Van Til's analysis of Barth, we will take his critique of Barth's Christology as a test case.

First, according to Van Til, Barth's Christology results in a functional Eutychianism. In the one act of God in Christ the creature is collapsed into the Creator; man is as highly exalted above time as is God. In other words, in the incarnation

"... God is no longer qualitatively distinct from man. Modern theology holds that both God and man are temporal. Barth holds that both God and man are eternal...Whether God and man are regarded as correlatives in the thick, heavy atmosphere of time or in the rarified realms of eternity makes no difference. In both cases man is as necessary to God as God is to man."8

This will be Van Til's basic understanding and critique of Barth throughout his life. In fact, in 1955, he made the following observation about Barth's theology--echoing some of his concerns from 1931:

"So also Karl Barth's God is what he is exclusively in relation to man "in Christ." Barth's main principle is "the revelation of God in Christ" to the exclusion of the God who exists from all eternity within himself, independently of his relation to the world."9

Furthermore, because God and all things are equally transcendent, Barth "strip[s] him of all the attributes that orthodox theology has assigned to him, and thus enable[s] him to turn into the opposite of himself."10 According to Van Til, then, Barth's theology leads to the inevitable conclusion that "He is then wholly identical with man and his world."11

Second, Van Til shows that Barth's thought is in fundamental continuity with a basic Kantian ontology. Van Til writes:

"To be sure, Barth has repeatedly asserted his desire to construct his theology in total independence of all the philosophical schools. Yet he has also admitted that in his earlier writings he had been influenced by modern epistemology...The Ritschlian theology in which Barth was nurtured was controlled by a modern form of the critical philosophy of Immanuel Kant...the Theology of Crisis, in the case of both Barth and Brunner, is essentially a modern theology. By an essentially modern theology we mean a theology which, like modern critical and dialectical philosophy, seeks to be activistic and anti-metaphysical at all costs."12

Interestingly, Bruce L. McCormack reaches a similar conclusion concerning the relationship between Kant and Barth:

"The fact that Barth devoted so many pages of his writings...to criticizing neo-Protestant theology tended to conceal the extent to which his antimetaphysical stance was itself a distinctly modern option in theology. My own contribution to the European discussion of Barth's relation to modernity was to demonstrate the extent to which Kant and the later Marburg neo-Kantianism influenced not only his earliest "liberal" theology...but also decisively stamped his dialectical theology."13

This interpretation is shared by Kant scholar, John Hare who--while recognizing significant discontinuities between Barth and Kant--argues that Barth's reliance on Kant was "constant."14 While so much more can and should be said here, we will leave it with simply noting how interesting it is that even the best of scholars recognize Barth's basic Kantian ontology. Yet, Van Til continues to be castigated--even though he made this observation over 85 years ago!

Third, consider Van Til's most concise critique of Barth's Christology which came in a 1960 article, entitled "Karl Barth on Chalcedon." Here is gives a close summary of Barth's doctrine of the incarnation from CD IV/1 and IV/2.15 He summaries Barth's "actualized" doctrine of Christ when he writes, "The incarnation is an event. As such it is at the same time the humiliation of God and the exaltation of man. The peril in which man stands is God's peril in Christ."16 In other words, the incarnation has ontological implications for who--and what - God is.

Now, this new formulation of "the Christ-event" means several things for Barth. Initially, it means that we must no longer think of the states of humiliation and exaltation as events in time in which one event takes place before the other. That would make revelation a predicate of history, which would--in turn--limit God's absolute freedom.17 Next, this Christ-event means that the two natures can never be separate from one another. It is one event that takes place in both natures. In this way, Christ's humiliation is the humiliation of God and his exaltation is the exaltation of man...By thus removing the traditional ideas with respect to the states and natures of Christ, Barth is opening up a path for the sovereign and free, as well as universal, grace of God to man.18

And last, the Christ-event also means the elimination of the distinction between Christ's person and work. Rather, "Christ's person is his work and his work is his person."19 Van Til takes this to mean that the incarnation in Jesus Christ is God's act of atonement for all mankind--sovereignly and universally. Jesus is the act of "the changeless Son of God and the changing man Jesus."20 It is in this context that Van Til introduces Barth's concept of the "contemporaneity" of Christ's person--which is his work - in Geschichte. He explains that "Geschichte happens every time" and thus "Christ's humiliation is at the same time exaltation."21

Fourth, the Christ-event means the utter rejection of the distinction between the Logos asarkos and the Logos en sarkos. In other words, "God does not will to be God without us."22 Van Til further explains:

"Here then is the reason why the idea of a Logos asarkos back of the incarnate Christ must be rejected. The message of the Gospels is the incarnate Christ. It is this Christ that precedes the creative work of God. The covenant of grace as preceding creation is established and effected through him."23

Therefore, Van Til explains, for Barth "God is his revelation to man."24 Any distinction between God-in-himself and God-for-us "no longer has any constitutive meaning but possesses only heuristic import."25 God's being and his revelation in Christ are identified. This clarifies what Van Til said earlier when he said "man is as necessary to God as God is to man." Furthermore:

"God extends his existence into coexistence with man. He identifies his being with that of man and transforms human being into participation with divine being...A complete interchange of predicate takes place between God and man in Christ."26

In other words, God's act in the incarnation constitutes his being. Again, Bruce L. McCormack supports Van Til's reading:

"What Barth is suggesting is that election is the event in God's life in which he assigns to himself the being he will have for all eternity...He takes this human experience into his own life and extinguishes its power over us."27

Therefore, God has no being which stands prior to or independent of his acts: "Thus there is no God in himself prior to the incarnation and there is no man in himself apart from his participation in the incarnation."28

Fifth, the Christ-event means the rejection of the idea of "God as such." Van Til explicates:

"Barth says that in Jesus Christ God is both wholly like and wholly unlike man...Herein lies the foundation of the reconciliation of the world with God. He can become truly man and as such the only true man, only if he is free to relinquish his being as it is in itself and to become wholly one with man. It is therefore God's nature to become wholly other than himself."29

For Van Til, Barth does not have a doctrine of a self-contained God who is altogether a se.30 Rather, his nature is determined by his act in Jesus Christ, "God's being and God's work are said to be one and the same."31

And sixth, the Christ-event means the denial of the decretum absolutum. If Jesus Christ is both electing God and elected man, then there can be no decree which exists independent of the person of Jesus Christ.32 To say otherwise - to say that God chooses some and rejects others - is to make God arbitrary in his decision. Rather, Barth proposes a decretum concretum in which God's covenant choice for all men in Christ precedes everything else.33 In other words, God's opera ad extra determine his opera ad intra. What God will do in Christ (save all) constitutes his eternal decree (to elect all).


1 Of special interest for our purposes is the recent blog post by Michael Allen at the Gospel Coaition (retrieved September 8, 2016). Allen's piece exemplifies the characteristic appreciation of Karl Barth's theology today which stands in stark contrast to the critical disposition of Reformed theologians of the mid-20th century.

*A document with the full set of footnotes for this post can be found here
This is the final post in a twelve-part series on the current Christological confusion taking root in China's emerging Reformed community (see parts 12345678, and 9 and 10 and 11).


Conclusion

There may be ways to construe the supposed pre-existent humanity of Christ without transgressing Chalcedonian orthodoxy--Klaas Runia certainly thought Barth achieved this.[1] For this reason, among others, Reformed theologians have generally treated this view as objectionable but not, by itself, heretical.[2] Even though some of the statements reviewed in this essay are difficult to square with Chalcedon and obviously incompatible with the Reformed standards cited above, my concern here is not assessing this man's views but addressing the Christological confusion his statements are causing within Reformed circles on the mainland of China (and beyond).

Perhaps these statements do not accurately represent his views. They are imprecisely stated, somewhat speculative, and not clearly argued from Scripture. There are also layers of language involved here and at least two years has passed since these recordings were made--enough time for him to have already changed his mind.

Whatever the case may be, these statements are circulating throughout mainland China, influencing believers who are just discovering the Reformed tradition, and causing enough Christological confusion to warrant our concern. Anyone who develops their Christological views around these "two claims, . . . first, that Christ's human nature and Christ's body are uncreated; and, second, that Christ's human nature has existed from all eternity," seems certain to stray from the Chalcedonian Christology the orthodox Reformed standards consistently maintain. Jesus Christ is not a bodily manifestation of an eternal humanness hidden within God; God-incarnate is not just similar to us with respect to a range of bodily functions but consubstantial with us--just like us in every way except sin; and there is no such thing as an uncreated physical body.

Though the divine and eternal Son assuming a fully human nature, body and soul, created and finite just like ours, is a scandal, it is the glorious scandal of God's saving grace in Jesus Christ, necessary for us and our salvation.

Notes:

[1] Klaas Runia, The Present-Day Christological Debate (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1984), pp. 16-21.

[2] An interesting example of this is Hodge, Systematic Theology, pp. 421-28, who treats the views of Swendenborg and Watts on this point as merely objectionable and describes the latter as undoubtedly "a devout worshiper of our Lord Jesus Christ," p. 423.

This is the eleventh post in a twelve-part series on the current Christological confusion taking root in China's emerging Reformed community (see parts 12345678, and 9 and 10).


Seventh Statement: The "Unknown Humanity of God in Christ"

"Until recent times," Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen observes, "the idea of the pre-existence of the human nature [of Christ] was not only not affirmed but at times considered to be dangerous or even heretical."[1] This did not prevent the ever-provocative Karl Barth from contriving such a Christology, however. First hinted at in his Church Dogmatics, he later argued before the Swiss Reformed Ministers' Association that the humanity of God in Christ must have a central place in evangelical theology. Admitting that he and his cobelligerents had "moved [this perspective on God] from the center to the periphery, from the emphasized principle clause to the less emphasized subordinate clause" in their polemic against theological liberalism, he now considered its recovery an urgent task.[2] Since then a number of other theologians have played suit. Among them are Wilhelm Vischer, Donald Bloesch, Robert Jenson, Thomas Senor, and the already noted Webb.[3] Apparently, our brother in Asia should be added to this list.

Although he does not cite any sources for his statements (other than a few dubiously translated or interpreted places in Scripture), his language sometimes seems lifted right out of Barth's several discussions, including his claim that the eternal humanness of Christ is the uncreated "prototype" of humanity and "could be called the 'Un-known humanity of God in Christ'."[4] Here, for example, is Barth's discussing the creation of humans:
There is a real pre-existence of man... namely, a pre-existence in the counsel of God, and to that extent, in God Himself, i.e., in the Son of God, in so far as the Son is the uncreated prototype of the humanity which is to be linked with God... As God Himself is mirrored in this image, He creates man [5]
On the humanity of God, Barth declares "it is precisely God's deity which, rightly understood, includes his humanity" and that "His deity encloses humanity in itself." Humanity, he argues, is hidden within the divine being but revealed through Jesus Christ: "In Him the fact is once for all established that God does not exist without man." Again, "in the mirror of this humanity of Jesus Christ the humanity of God enclosed in His deity reveals itself." [6]

Barth understands that "the statement regarding God's humanity, the Immanuel, to which we have advanced... from the Christological center, cannot but have the most far-reaching consequences."[7] But the consequences are determined by the details of the particular view one advances. Despite the similarity of language, Barth and our brother in Asia arrive at their respective views on the pre-existence of Christ's humanity from distinct starting points and, in the end, hold distinct positions--the latter's even more exotic than the former's.

This is not the place to enter into a comparative study of Barth's view of Christ's pre-existent humanity and the variety of this species taking root in China today. But, as Barth correctly notes, any statement regarding the humanity of God in Christ will have profound consequences, some of which, as Kärkkäinen observes, have long been considered dangerous to the understanding of Scripture captured in the Chalcedonian definition set down in 451.

Notes:

[1] Kärkkäinen, Christ and Reconciliation: A Constructive Christian Theology for the Pluralistic World (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2013), pp. 184-85.

[2] His 1956 address to the Swiss Reformed Ministers' Association was entitled "The Humanity of God" and subsequently translated into English and published in Karl Barth, The Humanity of God (Louisville: Westminster John Knox, 1960), pp. 37-65. See also Barth's Christocentric discussion of election in Church Dogmatics II/2 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1957), pp. 95-194 (especially p. 145), and of the creation of "real man" in Church Dogmatics III/2 (1960), p. 155.

[3] See, for example, Wilhelm Vischer, The Witness of the Old Testament to Christ, trans. A. B. Crabtree (London: Lutterworth, 1949); Donald G. Bloesch, Jesus Christ: Savior & Lord (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1997), pp. 132-43; Robert W. Jenson, Systematic Theology, vol. 1 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997), especially pp. 125-45; and Thomas D. Senor, "Incarnation and Trinity" in Reason for the Hope Within, ed. by Michael Murray (Grad Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999), pp. 238-59, especially 241-52. Bloesch also names Klaas Runia and Ray Anderson as proponents, p. 137. Like Matt Slick, President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry, who states "Jesus is uncreated" several times in his article on "Jesus" available at https://carm.org/cut-jesus, it is difficult to know Runia and Anderson intended to assert the uncreated humanity of Christ or were just speaking loosely about his pre-existence as the Son. After Barth, Jenson's views have attracted the most attention, including sharp critiques by Simon Gathercole, "Pre-existence and the Freedom of the Son in Creation and Redemption: An Exposition in Dialogue with Robert Jenson," International Journal of Systematic Theology, 7.1 (January 2005), pp. 38-51, and Oliver D. Crisp, "Robert Jensen on the Pre-existence of Christ," Modern Theology 23:1 (January 2007), pp. 27-45, the latter concluding Jenson's view is "simply incoherent," p. 42.

[4] Second Recording.

[5] Church Dogmatics III/2, p. 155.

[6] Barth, Humanity of God, pp. 46, 49, 50,  and 51, respectively (emphasis original). It is worth noting that the Barth's language regarding the humanity of God has spread far beyond just those who affirm Christ's humanity is pre-existent. Take, for example, the title to James Torrance's festschrift, Christ in our Place: The Humanity of God in Christ for the Reconciliation of the World: Essays presented to James Torrance (Eugene: Pickwick, 1989) or the language of Jürgen Moltmann in many passages of The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology (Minneapolis: Fortress, 1993).

[7] Barth, Humanity of God, p. 52.

Statement on Scripture by Concerned Erskine Faculty Members

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While some have thought that what has been termed the "battle for the Bible" was successfully concluded in evangelical circles almost three decades back, there can be little doubt at this point that the doctrine of Scripture is now a front-burner issue among American Evangelicals.  In particular, there is increasing interest in the formulations of Karl Barth, whose dialectical theology is thought by some to provide a more "dynamic" and satisfying view of the Bible and its authority, and whose polemic against "inerrancy in the original autographs" is increasingly influential in some quarters.   The recent reactivation of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy is but one indication of the concerns that many have regarding such developments. 

The statement below addresses the problem of Barthian views of Scripture in a particular institutional context.  It has been signed by five esteemed colleagues and myself.  I am honored to join with these faithful men and to post the text of the statement on this blog. An exploration of issues related to the broader background for this statement can be found here on this site. 

 

GOOD FRIDAY STATEMENT BY CONCERNED FACULTY MEMBERS
OF ERSKINE THEOLOGICAL SEMINARY AND ERSKINE COLLEGE

The ARP Church has historically held to a high view of Scripture as inerrant in the original autographs (see Historical Addendum below).  It has consistently rejected Barthian and Neo-Orthodox refusals to speak of the inerrancy of Scripture and to affirm unequivocally that Scripture is, rather than becomes, the Word of God.  Furthermore, the clear lesson of history is that Barthian fuzziness on the inspiration and authority of Scripture has had a disastrous impact on the mission and witness of the Church in Europe, Great Britain, North America, and elsewhere.  

Despite these clear affirmations by the ARP Church, of which Erskine Theological Seminary and Erskine College are agencies, after decades of theological conflict between the Church and the Seminary over the inspiration and authority of the Bible, Barthianism continues to be tolerated at Erskine Seminary. In recent years, one faculty member has publicly and privately expressed his strong opposition to the stated position of the General Synod of the ARP Church regarding Scripture.  We are profoundly disappointed that some in the Erskine administration and board find it acceptable for those who hold Barthian views of Holy Scripture to teach their viewpoint at Erskine.   

Some may say that debates over the inerrancy of Scripture are nothing more than semantics, arguments among theologians who are more interested in precise definitions of words than they are the peace of the church. We regret that characterization of the issue. Pious-sounding bromides regarding Scripture are no substitute for a clear articulation of the church's historic doctrine of Scripture, especially when such bromides conceal positions that fatally undercut the church's confidence in our God-breathed book, the Bible. The inerrancy of Scripture is not a second or third order issue, but one of critical importance for the life and well-being of the church. As much as we dislike controversy, we are compelled to say that this is not a matter for equivocation or compromise. Rather, we must be clear in our articulation of the doctrine and resolute in our stance.

We rejoice that, Dr. David Norman, President of Erskine College and Theological Seminary, has publicly affirmed his support and acceptance of the ARP Church's statement on the inerrancy of Scripture in the original autographs.  By virtue of the actions of the 2008 General Synod, this statement has been added to the General Synod's definition of Evangelical belief, is now required of all new teaching and administrative employees of the General Synod, and will be added to the ordination vows required of all ARP ministers and elders. 

We, the undersigned, believe that, after almost half a century of resistance by some Erskine Seminary faculty members to the historic theology of the ARP Church (again, see Historical Addendum below), ongoing conflict over the doctrine of Scripture threatens not only the Seminary's reputation for orthodoxy and its relationship to the ARP Church, but the very well-being of the school--as prospective students opt for other seminaries that affirm a more consistent theological stance. As members of the faculty at Erskine College and Theological Seminary, we believe this situation is unacceptable. Therefore, we humbly call upon the Board and Administration of Erskine College and Erskine Theological Seminary to support and defend the position of the ARP Church on Scripture, and to work toward an Erskine Theological Seminary and an Erskine College that stand strongly and unequivocally for the authority of God's inerrant and infallible Word. We represent a wide range of theological specialties and different denominational affiliations, but we are united in our affirmation of the church's historic doctrine of Scripture.

Signed:

Terry L. Eves, Ph.D.

Professor of Old Testament, Erskine Theological Seminary

Chair, Dept. of Biblical Studies

Presbyterian Church in America

 

The Rev. R. J. Gore Jr., D.Min., Ph.D.

Professor of Systematic Theology, Erskine Theological Seminary

Former VP and Dean, 1998-2003; Dean 2003-06

Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church

 

Dale W. Johnson, Ph.D.

Professor of Church History, Erskine Theological Seminary

Chair, Dept. of Theology and Church History

Presbyterian Church in America

 

The Rev. Toney C. Parks, D.Min.

Assistant Professor of Biblical Counseling, Erskine Theological Seminary

Chair, Dept. of Ministry

National Baptist Convention

 

The Rev. William B. Evans, Ph.D.

Younts Professor of Bible and Religion, Erskine College

Chair, Dept. of Bible, Religion, and Philosophy

Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church

 

John Makujina, Ph.D.

Professor of Biblical Studies, Erskine College

Independent Baptist

 

HISTORICAL ADDENDUM REGARDING ARP STATEMENTS 
ON THE AUTHORITY OF SCRIPTURE

 In an article entitled "What the Associate Reformed Church Stands For," in The Centennial History of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church (Charleston, S.C.: Walker, Evans, and Cogswell, 1905), p. 694, James Strong Moffatt gave clear expression to the doctrine of inerrancy in the original autographs: "The Associate Reformed Church stands stoutly for the plenary inspiration of the Scriptures. Its testimony is that the inspiration extends not merely to some portions of the Bible but to the whole Bible; not only to the words and sermons of Christ but to the Epistles of Paul and Peter as well. Its position is that not merely the contents, the body of truth found in the Scriptures is inspired of God but that the inspiration extends to the very words; that not only does the Bible contain the Word of God but the Bible is the Word of God. . . . The Associate Reformed Church does not contend that that there are no errors in the Bible as we have it today.  It would be strange indeed if having passed through so many hands, and so many casualties, and having been so often transcribed, some errors should not have crept in.  But the contention is that as originally given to the church there were no errors, and that the originals have been so guarded by the Spirit, and so reverently and carefully handled by godly and faithful men that whatever errors may have crept in through human frailty are slight and have not corrupted or changed in any particular the originally inspired documents."

The Church's doctrine of inerrancy in the original autographs is also expressed by two 1979 statements by the General Synod. "We believe that the Holy Spirit reveals Christ to us through the Holy Scripture which is the Word of God written.  While we do not have the original autographs as evidence, we believe on faith that God's Word in its entirety was accurately recorded by the original writers through divine inspiration and reliably transmitted to us" (1979 Minutes of the General Synod, p.76).  "Be it resolved that the General Synod of 1979 affirms that the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are the Word of God without error in all that it teaches" (1979 Minutes of the General Synod, p. 23, emphasis original).

In 1994 a controversy broke out at the General Synod meeting after a Barthian faculty member expressed reservation about the use of male language for God in a Seminary document.  A "Seminary Select Committee" of the Board was formed to examine all Erskine Seminary faculty members as to their views regarding the Standards of the ARP Church.  Faculty members were asked whether they affirmed "That the original writings of the Old and New Testaments are inspired by God, truth (without error), divine authority, and kept pure by Him through all ages" (1995 Minutes of the General, p. 51).  While the results of this examination were no doubt ambiguous, the nature of the question on Scripture itself is highly significant.  It demonstrates an understanding by the Church and Board that Erskine Seminary faculty members are indeed expected to affirm the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture. 

In 2008, after controversy erupted when two Barthian faculty members at Erskine Seminary refused to affirm the 1979 General Synod statements regarding Scripture, the General Synod passed the following language and added it to the definition of Evangelical beliefs binding on new faculty and administrative hires at Erskine Seminary: "the position of the Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church on Scripture is that the Bible alone, being God-breathed, is the Word of God Written, infallible in all that it teaches, and inerrant in the original manuscripts" (2008 Minutes of the General Synod, p. 514). 

 

 

 

Enaging with Barth

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Well, blow me down, here's another Trueman (a third) writing an intorduction to yet another little piece on Barth. One of these Trueman's needs to give us some pointers as to why we should be messing with this errant child! I mean, what can we learn from this man except that those who have embarced his theology have ended up denying things like inerrancy?

Another Trueman Show?

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A geezer from Pekham village told me that he'd just come across this magnificent little primer on Karl Barth by some one called Neil MacDonald and Carl Trueman!  Now, as me ole mother used to say, there's nowt as odd as folk, this can't surely be the same Trueman, the one what trashed Barth yesterday and refuses to interact with anyone outside of the straitjacket of the WTS approved tradition. Can it? Looks like there's some shenanigans going on here! How can Trueman point out them there faults in Barth and at the same time edit a book in which he..., well, you know what I mean! Is this scholarship or what?