Friday, February 24, 2006

Loving our own

Apparently my comments on Dillard and Longman have fired up the discussion boards.

There’s a natural, if chauvinistic, tendency to love our own. When one of our own publishes a book, we let our guard down.

So, if, for example, Dillard and Longman take the same positions on higher critical issues as Fuller faculty, then we give them a pass although we’d be quite hostile if the same book were written by Fuller faculty.

I don’t share this double standard. If anything, we should hold our own to a higher standard, not a lower standard.

As most of us know, when Princeton went liberal, Westminster was founded as the conservative antidote.

To the extent that Westminster faculty have come to espouse the same views as those of the Princeton faculty, whom the founding faculty of Westminster opposed, it's subject to the very same indictment.

I'm not making a general statement about the faculty at Westminster. Poythress, for example, is a true-blue conservative.

But the problem is larger than Enns. If what Enns is writing is tolerated, then the problem is larger than one faculty member.

If you compare E. J. Young's OT introduction with the Dillard/Longman work, or with the book by Enns which I reviewed, it is obvious that Dillard/Longman and Enns have pretty much capitulated to the historical-critical method. To Wellhausen and his contemporary counterparts.

They're not as radical as, say, James Barr. Liberalism is incremental. But we've been down the same road many times before. We know where it ends. And they’ve already gone too far--even if they don't go the distance.

Of course, whether this trend is objectionable or not depends entirely on one's own view of Scripture. There are folks who will defend Dillard/Longman and Enns because they share their same low view of Scripture, and want to see that become the norm.

When a man is sowing seeds of doubt into the hearts and minds of seminarians, I think it's good that he dies prematurely, the sooner the better, to lessen the direct damage and the collateral damage.

If I’d substituted “Wellhausen” for “Dillard,” would anyone object to my thanking God for removing Wellhausen from the scene?

But if Dillard takes the same position as Wellhausen, then his person is sacrosanct.

Well, I beg to differ.

If anything, the enemy within does more damage than the enemy without. And a good man can do more harm than a bad man.

Should I not thank God for what he did? Was God wrong to do what he did?

Many prayers in Scripture are prayers to God to remove an enemy of the faith, and when their petitionary prayers are answered, they offer up prayers of thanksgiving.

I agree with O. Palmer Robertson, who was, himself, a professor at Westminster, in his concluding remarks on Dillard and Longman:

“It is not a light thing to recite the testimony of the Lord and his gospel writers and then to brush their uniform witness aside as though it were irrelevant to issues of faith and life today. Numerous ecclesiastical communities that have accepted negatively critical perspectives on questions such as the authorship of Isaiah have, within a generation or two, ended in bankruptcy regarding matters of faith and morals,” The Christ of the Prophets (P&R 2004), 235.


  1. Thanks for the reminder that the standard is in fact Scripture, and not the authors that we have come to love. Too often do those in Christianity uncritically accept writings whole by writers who are just as fallible humans as they, without checking it against Scripture.

    One question I do have, though. At what point do you draw the line with a particular book? Is it where a certain percentage of the book is clearly inconsistent with Scripture that the book should not be read? (forgive me if I am unclear--I'm not really sure how to ask the question)

  2. Actually, the Dillard/Longman book has some useful material, but you have to pick out the poisonous mushrooms from the edible fare.

    Read it along side, say, Gleason Archer's OT Intro (3rd ed.), or Oswald Allis' The OT: Its Claims & Its Critics.

  3. I, for one, am very, very glad that made the post to which this one refers. I'm not always in the know about such things, and I really appreciated your bringing the situation at Westminster to my attention, as well as going through and giving some cursory refutations to Enns.

    Furthermore, I absolutely agree with you that we should hold "our own" to a higher, not a lower, standard.

    I'm extremely disheartened about Westminster hiring Enns and keeping him on staff, even after he makes known his exceedingly low view of God's Word.

    I'm currently working on my Master's in philosophy, and I was planning on going to Westminster after I graduate, because in my estimation it is top-notch in apologetics. But now, what am I to think? Is Westminster becoming just another liberal seminary I need to avoid?

    A fiend of mine (who is about to graduate with a Master's degree in Classics) and I were talking just the other day about what a breath of fresh air it would be to get out of secular academia and into a place where we could be surrounded with the Christian worldview. We are both planning to attend Westminster. But now I wonder whether this is such a good idea.

    What is one who wishes to pursue apologetics to do? You're at RTS, right, Steve? I talked to someone there about this and they said RTS only has one apologetics course. If that's so, it won't cut it for me (although I would absolutely love to be taught by John Frame!).

    Basically I just don't know what to think about all this. Just how bad is it at Westminster? Shouldn't the conservatives there be speaking out and opposing this nonsense and those, like Enns, who espouse it? Is there any other place for me to go and learn advanced presuppositional apologetics and Christian philosophy from sound teachers?

  4. It seems to me that Westminster is still a top-notch school. I don't know enough about all the faculty to venture a general opinion. The best procedure might be for you to correspond with two or three of the professors there. Do you have my email address? If so, email me and I'll put you in touch with them.

  5. Travis, I would recommend, if you are going to go for apologetics, Westminster (PA) is a great choice. With Lane Tipton and Oliphint, Poythress and others, you can not go wrong. These three along are with it. I'm sure RTS with Frame would be good as well.

  6. I said a "fiend" of mine. Haha! :-)

    I'll email you.

  7. Jeff:

    Yeah, I do really like Oliphint. And the apologetics I've read from Poythress has been fantastic. Haven't read anything from Tipton, but I heard he studied apologetics under Bahnsen.

  8. I attend a seminary where the principal (who went through a liberal seminary many decades ago) actually tells the students that they should get a secodhand copy of Young, rather than the Dillard and Longman book. He also thinks Longman's commentary on Ecclesiastes is exceedingly bizarre. I agree with him.

    As a student of the decline of the Free Church of Scotland, I never take low views of Scripture lightly.