Sunday, October 12, 2014

Lillback responds to Longman

Here is part of Lillback's response to Longman:
Like Chris Fantuzzo, I was passed over for a faculty position. In fact, this happened for three positions that I was asked to interview for at WTS. However, unlike Dr. Fantuzzo I had not had the privilege of competing for these positions with a three year written and mutually agreed upon contract behind me. In regard to this matter, I’m sure you know that I believed we needed to hire an experienced senior scholar to lead our OT department. To that end, I used my presidential constitutional prerogative to nominate Dr. Iain Duguid, one of your former students here at Westminster and a Cambridge PhD with many years of seminary and college teaching experience. This nomination was next supported by a faculty vote with no negative votes and two abstentions. This then became the faculty nomination that went to the Board where it unanimously carried. I am grateful that Westminster is now strengthened with an OT scholar who studied under you and has achieved his doctorate from such a world renowned institution as Cambridge. I believe Dr. Duguid is also your successor as senior editor of an OT commentary series that you helped launched with our distinguished deceased professor, Al Groves. As you know, the world famous Westminster Hebrew Institute that Al started still operates here on our campus and has been named in honor of Professor Groves.
So given my experience through these many years, I never could have imagined I would serve as President of WTS. But I was asked to do so, and when I accepted the call of the Board of Trustees, I had no awareness of the massive theological challenges that confronted WTS when I came. My desire had only been to restore a campus plagued by years of deferred maintenance and a reputation of functioning at too large a distance from the ministries of the local church. And these circumstances were complicated by a board that was deeply divided in the midst of an administration and presidential transition.
Tremper, in the spirit of Christian brotherhood I wish to let you know that I am praying for you. My prayer is that God will spare you from a bitter spirit that forgets or overlooks the cross and grace of Jesus Christ. And along with these prayers, I am praying that our Professor Waltke event will not be used for political ends. Perhaps you did not know, but Dr. Waltke has been a personal friend for many years. He preached at all three of the churches I pastored. I had him speak at a men’s retreat. He taught with you at my church for the “Streams in the Desert” seminar. I asked him to deliver my presidential inaugural keynote address here at WTS, which he did. I asked him to deliver the first Richard B. Gaffin, Jr. lecture, which he did. I’ve visited him several times after he left RTS and moved to Knox Seminary in Fort Lauderdale. I’ve actually been close enough to him that he discussed with me his decision years ago to leave WTS, as well as his difficult media experience that prompted his leaving RTS, and then even his decision to retire from teaching so he could better care for his wife. I’ve also republished several of his articles in recent months. My gratitude to Dr. Waltke is due in large measure to his trenchant teaching many years ago as well as his ongoing writing and teaching, that delivered me from a descent into the unbelief that too often seems to follow the embracing of higher critical methods.
You apparently are so concerned about our honoring of Dr. Waltke that you claim to know my very motives even though we have not communicated for many years. Dr. Waltke was invited by me to come to WTS, as the above recitation shows, out of a career long love that a student has for a godly and significant professor. It is the same kind of love that motivated me to interview Dr. Van Til so long ago when he was deeply distressed in the final years of his long and fruitful life in the aftermath and uncertainty of the Seminary’s long theological battle. I saw the same sort of wounds in my esteemed professor Bruce Waltke in the aftermath of the Biologos interview, particularly given the fact that his dear wife could no longer fully support him due to her challenging condition.
The plan to honor him emerged when I met with Bruce and his wife many months ago, long before there was any awareness of what would ultimately become Professor Doug Green’s decision to take an early retirement from the faculty, rather than confront the weighty and likely personally painful public theological battle that so many seem to wish to have. The idea to have some of Bruce’s cherished friends and former students from Dallas came to me early on as well. This was because I believed that Dallas Seminary, due to its dispensational commitments, would not celebrate Dr. Waltke’s career and retirement even though his contributions to the study of the OT and the Scriptures are immense. In this context, I encourage you and others to set aside what to me seems to be an apparent and/or expressly published “disappointment” with Dr. Waltke and seek to honor him as a father in the faith and a giant in your discipline. Your criticisms of Westminster in this context, whether intended or not, seem to have the tendency to dishonor him. To honor Dr. Waltke, even if he’s controversial to many in your circles even as he is in mine, clearly is the right thing to do. So I did not invite Bruce to WTS to use as a political football. Dr. Van Til and Dr. Waltke will be remembered for their positive contributions to the study of Scripture and the defense of the Christian faith. It is my prayer that this will be what you will be most remembered for as well.
Although you profoundly disagree, it is my desire to treat Doug Green with utmost respect. He was and continues to be a valued person and professor. He is still teaching Aramaic with us. Although he could not in good conscience support the commitments of Westminster’s faculty and board and thus chose early retirement instead of entering a process of theological review or taking the route of a reconsideration of his exceptions to the Seminary’s views, we endeavored to honor him in several ways. The first was by allowing him to co-write the announcement of his retirement, supported by clarifying FAQ’s that he approved. We honored him by posting his Psalm 23 paper at his request, a paper that had never been judged by the board or faculty. We have provided him a fully negotiated and thoughtful severance contract drafted and reviewed by his own legal counsel that honors him and protects his family. We are pleased that he has secured a new position in his homeland of Australia. In fact, members of our faculty that you have criticized in your posts helped him secure this position. And so we will steadfastly continue to honor him by keeping our mutual legally binding agreement with him. Theology, of course, deeply matters to us. We will continue to teach, declare and defend our historic biblical and theological beliefs in many positive ways in the days ahead.


  1. Pure class. I hope Longman is taking notes.

  2. It may be pure class, CR, but I'm not sure if it was entirely truthful. Please read Tremper's response below..