Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Spring cleaning at WTS

By now the news has spread regarding the forced “retirement” of Dr. Douglas Green, Professor of Old Testament at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. After being examined in 2009 by the WTS Board regarding his view of the institution’s “Affirmations and Denials Regarding Recent Issues” (a document framed in the context of the controversy involving another WTS OT Professor, Peter Enns) and passing muster, we learn that in November of 2013 the Board reversed itself and decided that Green’s response is “no longer acceptable.” 
I don't have an informed option to offer on Green. From what I can tell, he doesn't have much of a paper trail.
However, I'll say this. If I remember rightly, when Peter Enns applied for tenure at WTS, all his colleagues in the OT dept. supported him. And during the ensuing controversy, I don't recall that any of his colleagues in the OT dept. opposed him. Opposition came from other departments.
Hence, it would be naive to assume the problems in the OT dept. at WTS begin and end with Peter Enns. It would be naive to assume that his departure solved the problem, all by itself. To the extent that his colleagues in the same dept. were sympathetic and supportive, the problem was never confined to Enns. Perhaps he was just more aggressive and outspoken about promoting his views.
So I was waiting to see if WTS was going to follow up on other faculty in the OT dept. Taken by itself, his termination could just be a symbolic gesture. It's gratifying to see that WTS is making a good faith effort to root out the problem. 
All this raises uncomfortable questions about the future of WTS. The institution that I attended in the 1980s was one in which Ray Dillard and Dick Gaffin and Sinclair Ferguson and Harvie Conn and Tremper Longman and Vern Poythress and Philip Edgcumbe Hughes and Clair Davis and Robert Knudsen and Tim Keller and Moises Silva and Roger Greenway and Manny Ortiz and Rick Gamble could get along and work together despite their sometimes considerable differences. That institution is now apparently gone. Of course, nothing stays the same, and perhaps a new context and new challenges demand that lines be drawn more narrowly. It remains to be seen, however, whether a narrower institution can thrive in the current challenging seminary market environment. Furthermore, will it produce scholarship that is meaningful and useful to the broader Christian world rather than catering to the boundary preoccupations of the conservative Reformed subculture?
Actually, the question is whether seminaries like WTS will maintain their commitment to the inspiration and historicity of Scripture. WTS is undergoing a midcourse correction. That's long overdue.  

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